On the last Wednesday of June I joined eight members of the Environmental Protection Agency (7 from DC, one from the regional office in Denver), Rep. Mike Howe of Casselton, staffers and members of ND Corn, ND Grain Growers, ND Soybean Growers, Senator Heitkamp’s representative, Farmer’s Union rep and maybe a few others on a tour of the central region of the Red River Valley. They had come in on Monday and toured Tuesday, but I was in Winnipeg and missed that day. Some held doctorates in Entomology with all 7 from the Office of Pesticide Programs.
Their day started at the Crystal Sugar Moorhead plant and I met them a few miles south of Hillsboro at the Lovas farm at around 10:30. The mostly good news was that I left home in Viking Township outside of Mayville-Portland around 8:30 to meet them while it rained hard for about 90 minutes. Most ground in the Central RRV picked up a couple inches; the consensus seeming to be that it was welcome moisture given that the heat was coming soon and crops really begin to use the water in July.
Agronomist and farmer Sarah Lovas showed them some of her computer work on a projection screen which explained the many variables of soils, levels of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and others while discussing crop rotation decision-making. Her farmer/husband Jason stood nearby to answer questions while a growing group of interested people continued to drive over and filter in. Farmer Tim Kozojed was also part of the core discussion attempting to make what growers do real for these federal employees. These are intelligent people who need to understand how agriculture and agri-business work when they are processing information and making decisions that impact our country. The whole Lovas presentation showed high levels of professionalism and wowed many if not all of our DC visitors. The contingent was involved and learning.
We then hopped across the road to Alton elevator which loads shuttle trains. They were able to witness trucks unloading and samples being taken. Then on to the Skunes farm east of Arthur for lunch and sprayer rides for the EPA people. With three generations present to host our contingent and some employees who have been loyal for decades, I got the feeling this is a solid operation with good people.
We then went to Bill Hejl’s gracious farm for a large reception which included a NDSU researcher, a Syngenta spokesperson as well as one from General Mills, a John Deere sprayer manufacturer/salesperson, a Crystal Sugar executive, Bill’s son John and surrounding growers. We heard about how the new sprayer heads can rotate to differentiate droplet size and how the 130 plus foot boom can regulate dosage to cover the different speeds when turning between the outer and inner radii. We were told about Syngenta’s Sustainable Solutions for RRV sugar beets and General Mill’s plan for sustainability and customer appreciation for agriculture. This was followed up by the trek to rural Harwood (a redundancy, I know) for a tour of the technologically impressive Peterson Farms Seed operation. Incredible personnel and sorting/cleaning machinery, not to mention their HQ building and the Spitfire Grill catered supper. Then we all took the bus to Fargo and Moorhead. Only downer of the trip came at the very end when the tranny started going out in North Moorhead. Despite the long day, spirits on the bus were fair as we limped to their hotel a block or two at a time with the ND natives noting; “Hey, it could have been 30 below zero”.