A Quick Canadian Trip
Monday I drove up to Winnipeg against a north wind for the annual International Legislator’s Forum. This is a gathering which includes select lawmakers from Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Manitoba. Originally it was about managing flood waters but lately has expanded to transportation, sex trafficking, invasive species and other topics. The various governments take turns hosting and I had attended for four years as a Senator from ND, so it was pleasant duty to be asked to cover the initial issue this year for the Growers who have chipped in along with around 15 other organizations to keep the lines of communication open across borders.
The issue was subsurface water management and there were five speakers; Hans Kandel and Tom Scherer from NDSU, Senator Luick from ND, Sid Vander Veen from Ontario and Mitchell Timmerman from Manitoba. We learned the basics from the NDSU guys as Hans did the sponge and water thing to illustrate for those new to the topic how in drain tiling the earth filters the water down to the tile. Then he spread salt on top of the sponge (“See how it looks white like salt in a field?”) and of course when he poured water on it the salt was carried down through the sponge into the bucket (tile). Another basic he communicated was how tiling increases average bushels and decreases yield variability so there is less risk. When he asked if it made sense that a farmer who tiled and has less risk should pay less for insurance, all the legislator-farmers laughed.
Scherer explained some of the hydrology of tiling which was interesting to me because I did not know that water between the laterals humped upwards; eventually flattening out as it gradually filters sideways and down to the pipes. He also mentioned that about 70 percent of the water that enters the perforated pipes comes in from the bottom – another piece of hydrology I had not considered. Senator Luick explained how tiling law changed in ND this year, while the presenters from Manitoba and Ontario explained how their governments deal with tiling.
Near Toronto, Sid mentioned that in the heavily agricultural Windsor area, about 85 percent of the land is tiled. They have been tiling for well over a hundred years. Every tiling operator, tiling machine and tiling business is licensed. Operators move from a Class C to a Class A license as they meet education and work requirements. That is Ontario.
The Manitoban spoke of different soils in his province as well as the main problem in Lake Winnipeg being due to phosphorous. During the Monday evening reception, I spoke with legislators from Manitoba and Saskatchewan who stated that soybeans are on the increase with both provinces having at least a million acres this year. Tuesday I drove back home into a fierce south wind –Murphy’s Law, I guess.