Above normal rainfall was received over the last two weeks in Iowa, with the statewide average was 2.3 inches, as compared to the normal 1.7 inches. However, in its latest Water Summary Report, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources notes more, slow steady rains are needed to bring us out of the drought. The National Drought Monitor indicates improvement in all categories of drought conditions across the state over the past two weeks. Over 35 percent of the state continues to be rated in moderate drought, and just over 5 percent is rated in severe drought. Nearly 60 percent of the state, however, is now shown without drought or just abnormally dry. Those driest areas continue to be two small locations in west-central and southeast Iowa.
The DNR says that although shallow groundwater levels in southern central, eastern and northeastern Iowa have benefitted from the rainfall, parts of southwest and northwest Iowa received very little rain and shallow groundwater levels are much lower than the previous April. Water supply operators in northwest Iowa are seeing reduced production, dropping water levels and historically low levels.
Stream flow has improved statewide, but remains below average. Northeast Iowa remains the wettest, while northwest Iowa is the driest. Groundwater conditions are still low across much of the state, but normal spring rains should continue to bring improvement.
Compared to a year ago, shallow groundwater levels are one to four feet lower in Johnson, Jefferson, Lucas and Montgomery counties, and the same or slightly higher in Marshall, Fayette, Crawford and O’Brien counties.
Compared to two years ago, shallow groundwater levels are 2 to 12 feet lower in Crawford, O’Brien, Jefferson, Johnson, Lucas and Montgomery counties.
The 2014 Stars Over Iowa Finalists were selected for recognition as part of the 86th Iowa FFA State Leadership Conference at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, April 27-29, 2014. Twenty three finalists were selected in four different areas: Agricultural Placement, Agriscience, Agribusiness, and Agricultural Production. The finalists were selected from a pool of 686 FFA members that will earn the Iowa FFA Degree—the highest honor the Iowa FFA Association can bestow upon an FFA member.
The star awards recognize students who have developed outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through their career development programs and demonstrated outstanding management skills. These finalists will be interviewed and an overall winner in each area will be announced on stage during the 4th General Session of the Iowa FFA State Leadership Conference Tuesday, April 29th.
Stars Over Iowa finalists receive a plaque and a cash award. The Stars Over Iowa program is possible with support from DuPont Pioneer and SFP through the Iowa FFA Foundation. Wyatt Saeugling is the son of Aaron and Danna Saeugling of Atlantic and is a Finalist for Stars Over Iowa in Ag Placement.
Wyatt has worked at R&B Feeds in Atlantic since he was freshman. Wyatt has a strong love for agriculture. “My dad graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Agronomy and my mom also graduated from Iowa State with a degree in Ag Studies. Whether I was playing with my farm toys or riding in the tractor with my grandpa, I have always been involved in agriculture. One of my favorite memories from growing up was when I would help my grandpa
do chores. He has a dairy farm in Northern Iowa and we would go and visit almost every weekend when I was younger. Now that I have gotten older and have started to take care of my own cattle, I don’t get to travel up there as often but I’m glad that my grandpa set a great example of caring for livestock.” Saeugling said.
I can’t describe how grateful I am to have some of the relationships that I have gained over the years working at R&B Feeds whether it has been employees or customers. I have learned so much about how people work and what is best for their livestock needs. I’ve also learned that there is a lot more to feeding livestock than just opening a bag and dumping it out.
The Iowa FFA Association has 219 local chapters with over 14,200 FFA members. FFA is a national organization of nearly 580,000 members preparing for leadership and careers in science, business and technology of agriculture. Local, state and national programs provide opportunities for students to apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom. FFA’s mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
The spring planting season is underway and local U-S-D-A Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices are getting calls from farmers, asking if they need to sign up for the farm program before heading to the fields. The F-S-A County Executive Director for Dickinson and Emmet Counties, Larry Lago, says he thinks he knows why he’s getting the calls. “Probably because this is the first time in many, many years where a product is actually going to head to the field and do spring field work and planting and not have been provided an opportunity to sign up for a farm program. This year is an exception to that as there is not sign up for a farm program as this time,” Lago says.
Even though farmers don’t need to sign up for the farm program now, he says they still need to keep good records. “They’ll want to keep track of their planting dates, obviously the field sizes and what’s planted in that field. That’s not only needed for U-S-D-A farm programs, but if they have crop insurance on that crop, their agent is going to want to know that information as well,” Lago explains. Lago adds that growers on highly-erodible land need to pay special attention to their tillage practices.
He says farmers need to be mindful that they are using residue management as part of the conservation plan to keep soil loss to acceptable levels. Lago says that means using tillage processes that ensure there is enough cover once the crops are planted to keep soil loss at manageable levels. The state crop report released Monday said corn planting was just getting underway, but was expected to pick up steam this week with warmer temperatures.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday for a new back-country trail system for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders at the Whiterock Conservancy near Coon Rapids. Conrad Kramer, the conservancy’s executive director, says construction of the new trail system should take much of the summer and into the fall, following a five-year effort to raise four-point-eight million dollars. Kramer says, “We’ve got five miles of really nice trail here and about nine miles of old farm lanes and basically what we’re doing is trading in our nine miles of old farm lanes for 35 miles of new trail.”
The five-thousand acre non-profit land trust is Iowa’s fourth largest park. Kramer says he couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Earth Day than starting construction for a trail system that will allow many more Iowans to experience the beautiful natural landscape the conservancy was created to protect. “We believe it’ll be the best destination trail system in the state,” Kramer says, “and also the best destination mountain bike trail within 400 miles.” When complete, the 40-mile trail system will give visitors the opportunity to experience being surrounded by nature.
Winding through seven square miles of the Whiterock Conservancy, visitors will see oak savanna and prairie restoration areas, forests, ponds, stunning vistas, pastures and sustainably-farmed land in the Middle Raccoon River Valley. “We will have 16 miles of single track specifically designed for mountain bikers,” Kramer says. “We will also have six miles of single track specifically designed for equestrians to enjoy, and then we’ll have 12 miles which we’re calling our main track, a double track. Everyone can use it, mountain bikers, horseback riders and pedestrians.”
Low-powered “Gator” vehicles will be available to rent for anyone with mobility issues, senior citizens and families with young children, who would still like to see the sights. The groundbreaking was followed by the planting of at least 100 trees at the Bur Oak Visitor Center.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Efforts by the nation’s corn growers to get their crops planted in key grain states continue to sputter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says just 6 percent of this year’s corn crop is in the ground. That compares to the average of 14 percent over the previous five years and 4 percent a year ago, when one of the wettest springs on record got farmers in many states off to the slowest start in decades.
The sluggish start to corn season is especially pronounced in key farming states. Illinois growers have planted just 5 percent, while Iowa is at just 2 percent and Nebraska is at 4 percent. The USDA says corn planting traditionally is in full swing from this time through May 23.
Nichols Farms LTD of Bridgewater is the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association’s nomination for the national Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). This family farm operation is managed by Dave Nichols, Phyllis Nichols and Lillian Nichols, and covers Adair, Adams and Cass counties. As Iowa’s ESAP representative, Nichols Farms has been nominated for recognition at the regional level, which includes four other states. If it is successful in the regional competition, Nichols Farms will move on to the national level.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association initiated the environmental award program in 1991 to highlight exceptional work done by cattle producers to protect and enhance the environment. Since its inception, Iowa cattle producers have won 15 regional awards and three national ones. Nichols Farms is known internationally for its innovative techniques in using genetic and production data from cattle to produce beef more efficiently. However, the farm operation has always been conservation minded since Dave Nichols’ parents purchased land in Adair County in the late 1930s.
It won’t be known until August whether Nichols Farms was selected as the ESAP Region 3 winner. If it is selected, it will compete for the national ESAP title with six other regional winners. The national winner will be announced during the Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show in San Antonio, TX, in February 2015.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will award $6 million to 10 universities to finance the study of what climate change means to agriculture and strategies for helping farmers and ranchers deal with weather changes. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the grants Tuesday during a conference about climate change held at Drake University in Des Moines.
Vilsack told the audience the grants would lead to information and developments that would be essential to farmers. The grants were made through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grants will go to the University of Colorado, Cornell University, Florida International University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, Montana State University, Oklahoma State University, Pennsylvania State University and West Virginia University.
Farmers are use technology such as G-P-S and weather reports these days to save time and money and increase crop yields, and many are being asked to share their data collected from that technology. The sharing issue has raised many worries about security and privacy. The American Farm Bureau Federation recently met with officials from six, large “agricultural technology” companies to discuss those concerns. Mary Kay Thatcher, Senior Director of Congressional Relations for the federation, says the new question is whether to share all the different data for agronomists to sift through and to help improve efficiency.
“Usually it means I’ll remove the name if I have the Social Security number, if I have an address, a phone number etcetera. But lots of time they are not removing the G-P-S locations — because it’s the G-P-S locations that say ‘put more fertilizer on this part of the field’,” she explains. The problem is, those G-P-S coordinates are a big key to other information. “If you’ve got the G-P-S coordinates, you pretty much know who I am and what farm I’m farming on,” Thatcher says.
There are questions about who gets to see all the aggregated information. For example, could the U-S E-P-A identify farmers who idle their equipment for what it considers too long to be good for air quality? Or could a seed dealer learn how planting is going for local farmers and use that information to compete in their own fields? Or could investment banks and traders use it to make a lot of money on commodities markets?