Prairie Grains February 2024

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Issue 198 February 2024

Building Opportunities by Association


Inside the issue Small Grains Update 2024 Meet Kayla Pulvermacher Riding the Rails

Minnesota Wheat, 2600 Wheat Drive, Red Lake Falls, MN 56750

ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. The distribution, sale, or use of an unregistered pesticide is a violation of federal and/or state law and is strictly prohibited. Check with your local dealer or representative for the product registration status in your state. Bayer, Bayer Cross, and Vios FX are trademarks of Bayer Group. For additional product information, call toll-free 1-866-99-BAYER (1-866-992-2937) or visit our website at Bayer CropScience LP, 800 North Lindbergh Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63167. ©2024 Bayer Group. All rights reserved. ™

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Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers 2600 Wheat Drive • Red Lake Falls, MN 56750 218.253.4311 • Email: Web:


Drew Lyon, Ag Management Solutions 1020 Innovation Lane • Mankato, MN 56001 Ph: 507.388.1635 Email:


Sydney Harris, Ag Management Solutions Ph: 218.689.5091 Email: Katelyn Engquist, Ag Management Solutions Ph: 507.508.1540 Email:


Kaelyn Rahe, Ag Management Solutions Ph: 507.388.1635 Email: Alex Troska, Ag Management Solutions Ph: 952.334.2539 Email:


Erin Rossow, Ag Management Solutions 1020 Innovation Lane • Mankato, MN 56001 Ph: 507.902.9191 Email:


Prairie Grains magazine is published six times annually and delivered free of charge to members of these grower associations, and to spring wheat and barley producers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. To subscribe or change address, please write or call our circulation department.


Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers and Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council 2600 Wheat Drive • Red Lake Falls, MN 56750 218.253.4311 • Email: Web:

North Dakota Grain Growers Association 2401 46th Ave SE , Suite 204 • Mandan, ND 58554 701.222.2216 • Email: Web:

South Dakota Wheat Growers Association 116 N. Euclid, Box 667 • Pierre, SD 58501 605.224.4418 • Email:

Montana Grain Growers Association P.O. Box 1165 • Great Falls, MT 59403 • 406.761.4596 Email: • Web:

Northland Community and Technical College 1101 Highway One East • Thief River Falls, MN 56701 218.683.8800 Email: Web:

Prairie Grains February 2024 | Issue 198


Against the Grain: Mike Gunderson signs off



Taming the Bulls & Bears: Leaving a legacy

Face to face: MAWG advocates talk Farm Bill with senators back home and in D.C.


Small Grains Update 2024: Spring wheat variety performance


‘Way of Life’: Kayla Pulvermacher steps into new role with North Dakota Grain Growers Association

Cover Story


Farmer-funded research: AFREC advocates seeking extension of fertilizer research program

Lawmakers reconvened in February in St. Paul, Minn., to gavel in the 2024 legislative session. The Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers, led by new President Kevin Leiser, will have a strong presence at the Capitol to defend policies while working with both parties to promote farm-friendly legislation. Stories on pages 6 & 10.

February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 3

Passing the torch Like a beautiful northwest Minnesota sunset on a warm summer’s night, all good things must come to an end. Such is life. After two years presiding over the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers (MAWG), I was proud to pass the gavel over to my friend and colleague Kevin Leiser. I’ve known Kevin for several years and have been proud to work alongside him both on MAWG and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). Kevin is the real deal, a farmer who doesn’t suffer fools. Over a lifetime of farming, he’s learned the ins and outs of the wheat industry and farming in general. I’m confident he’s going to lead MAWG with passion and respect while continuing to have input on national issues through his role with NAWG. Kevin also works on the checkoff side of the wheat world as a director of the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council. He sees all sides. But Kevin will be the first to tell you he can’t do it alone. That’s why we have a strong board supporting him. Along with our search for a new executive director, we’re also seeking an at-large director in the southern portion of wheat country who’s willing to take the next step in their leadership growth by becoming a director to replace Steve Lacey, who termed off last year. While we encourage any

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and all Minnesota wheat growers to apply, we’d love to find a producer who farms a bit south of northwest Minnesota to spread our representation around. With a new legislative session beginning this month, it’s more important than ever that Wheat’s membership blankets our entire state. Our friends in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana can surely relate. We are becoming a smaller faction of the population, but I can tell you from experience: Our voice still matters at the state and national capitals. Agriculture continues to punch above our weight class during policy discussions, and that’s because our directors and members are engaged and knowledgeable. I’ve also learned during my career in ag leadership that the vast majority of legislators, no matter their political stripes, want to do right by agriculture. That’s why, year after year, agriculture committees tend to work in a more bipartisan fashion. We sure hope that bipartisan spirit can prevail enough to pass a new Farm Bill this year. That’s the message we carried in late January during NAWG’s

Winter Conference in Washington, D.C. Before I hand this column over to Kevin, I’d like to thank my family for their support. Ag leadership means valuable time away from family and the farm, and my family has helped fill that void during my absences. As directors, we all stand on the shoulder of giants, and that’s doubly true in my case. Before I was elected as a MAWG director, my wife, Connie, served nine years on the board before she retired in 2018. Let it be known – Connie is the true brains behind our operation. Being a leader means knowing when it’s time to walk away and make room for others. During my presidency, I welcomed federal legislators and journalists to my farm, and spoke with Fox News about how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was harming U.S. farmers. I like to think I met the moment and helped improve our industry. But now it’s time to step aside and let a new voice set MAWG’s direction. Kevin, it’s now your turn to show us the way. We’re all ready to follow you. Mike Gunderson farms in Bejou. He’s a director with the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers and served as president from 2022-2023.

Betsy Jensen is a Farm Business Management Instructor at Northland Community and Technical College. Follow her on Twitter at @jensenbetsyr.

Leaving a Legacy I like paging through land abstracts. Who owned this property before? Why did they sell? One of my favorite abstracts starts with a homestead for $11 in 1889. There is a handwritten letter from the sheriff in 1890, a foreclosure in 1932 and a $50,000 sale in 1937. The final entry is why this abstract is my favorite. In 1980, Grandpa conveyed the land to Grandma and where it lists the sales price, it says “love and affection.” I can imagine Grandpa’s face when he was asked what to put for a price. He saw the opportunity to make future generations laugh. No one can remember him commenting on his little prank, but it has sure made us smile. We don’t know if Grandma ever knew. It’s a great story to have on the farm. One of the challenges in farming is how to leave a legacy. It can be work ethic, assets, stories, photos, memories from the farm. I know farming is a business, but it is usually a family business with generations working together. What you do today will be remembered. There will be funny stories, memorable equipment, good and bad harvests and those days everyone wants to forget. Off the top of my head, the freeze of 2004, the harvest of 2019 and the wheat rally in 2008 stand out for good and bad memories. The goal should be to create positive legacies. We want to be remembered for the good things we did. There will always be curse words during a harvest breakdown or missed opportunities on land purchases, but let’s try to minimize those. Be remembered for being hard working, fair in business, easy to work with, and in my case, a risk minimizer. I am okay with my kids discussing how mom never did anything crazy like seed the whole farm to flax or hold three years of crops in the bin. I would like them to remember that I treated the farm like a business. Each year is a learning opportunity, and this year I learned not to doubt Mother Nature. I doubted our

ability to grow a crop with no Love and affection can go a long way in moisture, did a life of farming. not contract enough, and am furious with myself for not doing better. I might add 2023 to my list along with 2004, 2019 and 2008. Remember when it never rained, the crop looked horrible and somehow had above average yields? That was 2023. I pledge to do better in 2024 and that includes not over or underestimating yields. Stick with historical averages, forward contract even if prices make me cry, and focus on risk management. I want my legacy to be good business decisions. This year may be remembered as the year when we thought prices couldn’t get worse, and then they did. I think $7 wheat is horrible, but it could be $6 at harvest. We thought $9 was horrible because it was definitely going to $10, and that didn’t work. As you develop your marketing plans for 2024, or even 2025, we need to include time deadlines on the sales. I still want to start at $9.50 but if we don’t get there, I need a backup plan. I really wrote down $9.50 as my first sale, and that has not aged well. I will also be on the lookout for opportunities to make lasting legacies, more than just handprints in the new bin concrete or notches in the post to measure growing kids. Grandpa may have pulled off the greatest legacy yet, but I have a few more years to find ways to match his humor. For Christmas I received an olive branch necklace to preemptively ask for forgiveness for the rest of our marriage. Matching earrings may be required in future years, but I have a legacy of funny guys to follow. I am open to all your ideas. Wish me luck and good luck as you create the legacy on your farm. February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 5

CAPITOL RESET MAWG sets 2024 policy direction

By Drew Lyon As advocates prepared for the 2024 legislative session, there were two prevailing schools of thought emerging among Capitol insiders in St. Paul. One scenario: After the Democratic legislative majority achieved nearly all its policy priorities in 2023, which issues are even left for the DFL to pursue? Other politicos predict that Democrats, perhaps anticipating voters will reject their slim majority during the upcoming November election, will make legislative hay while the sun is still shining. Bruce Kleven, legislative strategist for the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers (MAWG), isn’t convinced either way. Time will tell, said the longtime lobbyist. “I can’t tell you which one is more likely to happen,” Kleven said during the 2023 Prairie Grains Conference. “It’s all prediction. But regardless, there are a lot of defenses that we’ll be looking at.” The second year of a biennium is typically considered a policy-heavy session, rather than budgetary. Technically, because a budget was set in the biennium’s first year, the Legislature isn’t required to pass a single bill during this session.

Rep. Samantha Vang (third to left), who chairs the House Ag Committee, visits with Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers leaders in March 2023.

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“They could pass very minimal legislation, but we just don’t know that yet,” Kleven said. MAWG felt positive about its wins from the ag budget in 2023: legislation that helped fully fund the state’s first grain indemnity fund, along with increased resources for the Northern Crops Institute. After finalizing their policy resolutions at the 2023 Prairie Grains Conference, MAWG directors look to build on those wins in 2024. Democrats return with a majority this session, but with fewer rural representation than in past majorities. “We felt good about what we were able to achieve last year,” said MAWG Director Mike Gunderson, who recently completed his second and final year as association president. “It wasn’t the most favorable legislative environment for agriculture, but we came out with some policy wins, thanks to both parties working together for agriculture. It’s going to take some work, but we think we can repeat that success this year.”

Membership makes a difference

To support MAWG’s proactive advocacy measures, join the organization by visiting growers/membership-info/. Membership levels start at just $100 per year and feature benefits, including membership in the National Association of Wheat Growers and free entry to Minnesota Wheat events. Between the House and Senate, more than 6,000 bills were introduced in the Minnesota Legislature in 2023. Those bills, most of which didn’t pertain to agriculture, will carry over this year. Carry over bills related to treated seed and pesticide management are squarely on MAWG’s radar. Top of mind for MAWG will be ongoing legislation requiring drainage registration. MAWG, along with numerous agricultural groups, strongly opposes a proposed online drainage portal, maintaining it’s an overreaching measure. “It’s an issue we’re concerned about because right now, notice of a drainage project only goes locally to the affected landowners and folks in the county. Environmental groups in St. Paul don’t know about the project, and so they want to establish an online drainage registry portal to give them instant notice,” Kleven said. “This is a big issue for us.” As part of his role with MAWG, Kleven represents the organization on a drainage work group alongside commodity groups, counties, watersheds, environmental groups and governmental officials. While he’s hopeful a consensus can be found, Kleven is bracing to play mostly defense at the Capitol on this front. “The drainage portal is likely to be an ongoing battle at the Legislature,” he said. “We just don’t need the environmental groups to elbow their way to the table say ‘You’re going through us.’ Growers in Norman County don’t need (those groups) to decide whether the ditch gets cleaned out or not.”

MAWG First Vice President Austen Germolus (left) talks agriculture policy with Sen. Steve Green during MAWG’s 2023 St. Paul Bus Trip.

Setting direction MAWG is also monitoring legislation that would restrict fertilizer use and increase costs after the EPA ordered the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to ramp up its efforts to prevent nitrate contamination in southeast Minnesota. Ag groups argue that further legislation is unnecessary and overreaching. “If they make new rules or increase costs for that area that are applicable statewide, our growers in northern Minnesota will also be paying for it,” Kleven said. The state is also projecting a budget surplus of around $2.4 billion, although Minnesota budget officials warned that a deficit could be on the horizon by 2026-2027. MAWG will look to build on the agricultural property tax relief that passed in 2023. Austen Germolus, MAWG’s first vice president, said having a legislative veteran like Kleven based near St. Paul is a huge resource to the organization. “Although we set the direction, we always welcome Bruce’s input,” Germolus said. “He’s very good at anticipating events at the Capitol and making sure we’re on top of legislation that could hurt us. Our resolution process helps give Bruce the firepower he needs down in St. Paul.” At press time, MAWG hadn’t selected a new executive director to replace Charlie Vogel. However, growers and interim Executive Director Coreen Berdahl will continue the annual St. Paul Bus Trip. “That day is so important for us, because we can break into groups and meet with a wide range of legislators and Department of Agriculture leaders,” Gunderson said. “We’re excited to earn some policy wins and protect our members and industry.” February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 7

Legislative Bus Trip to St. Paul March 18-19, 2024 MN Wheat Growers & Minnesota Farm Bureau Ride in comfort on a 50-passenger coach bus

Join members from MN Wheat and MN Farm Bureau on an overnight bus trip to St. Paul where participants will meet with legislators from their district and others who served on committees important to agriculture. This is your opportunity to tell your story on how policies and laws affect your farm. What to expect? All attendees will: • Be updated on state legislative issues from MN Wheat & MN Farm Bureau public policy staff • Team up with other growers and meet with individual legislators (appointments are pre-arranged) • Meet with other growers on a relaxing round-trip motor coach ride to St. Paul

Schedule Monday, March 18, 2024 11:00 a.m. Depart Red Lake Falls 11:30 a.m. Depart Fertile 12:00 p.m. Depart Twin Valley 12:30 p.m. Depart Hawley 1:10 p.m. Depart Rothsay 1:40 p.m. Depart Fergus Falls - - - Other pickups along the way if needed - - - - - Lunch will be served on the Bus - - 4:40 p.m. Arrive St. Paul - check in to hotel Radisson St Paul downtown 5:00 p.m. Legislative update & group dinner

Tuesday, March 19, 2024 7:00 a.m. Breakfast at hotel 8:00 a.m. Producers Team Appointments with individual legislators 11:00 a.m. Rally on Capitol Hill 12:00-3:00 p.m. Legislative appointments continued 3:30 p.m. Depart St. Paul - - - Supper along the way - - 6:30 p.m. Arrive Fergus Falls 7:00 p.m. Arrive Rothsay 7:35 p.m. Arrive Hawley 8:10 p.m. Arrive Twin Valley 8:30 p.m. Arrive Fertile 9:00 p.m. Arrive Red Lake Falls

Registration Cost: ~ FREE for all MN Wheat and MN Farm Bureau members ~ $150 for non-members Registration includes: Transportation, meals and hotel room. (Hotel room based on double occupancy.)

To participate, call 218-253-4311 ext. 1 or email Limited to the first 45 registrations. Minnesota Assn. of Wheat Growers • 2600 Wheat Drive • Red Lake Falls, MN 56750


MAWG members are

part of a vast network of wheat farmers, industry experts, and stakeholders. A membership in MAWG means a wheat family who focuses on legislative issues such as crop insurance, the farm bill, wheat research funds, water quality and other environmental issues. Choose the type of membership that is best for you and your farm operation.

Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers

Call the MAWG office at 218-253-4311 or visit to join today. February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 9

Wiser Leiser

MAWG elects new president

New MAWG President Kevin Leiser is a seasoned advocate and lifelong farmer.

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By Drew Lyon The Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers (MAWG) has embarked on a new year by electing its newest president. After two years as president, Bejou farmer Mike Gunderson passed the torch in January to Fertile farmer Kevin Leiser, who takes the helm after two years as first vice president. “I’m grateful for my time as president and wish Kevin all the best as he begins his presidency,” Gunderson said. “We got some work done in St. Paul, and I feel we helped move the needle a little bit.” Gunderson said the organization will be in strong hands with Leiser. Through his service on both MAWG and the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council (on which he’s served since 2011), Leiser has a clear understanding of how the checkoff group and legislative association can work together and separately. “It’s a great privilege – and responsibility – to represent our state’s wheat farmers during discussions with legislators,” Leiser said. “I’m looking forward to building on what Mike did during his term. He did a very good job as president.”

MAWG President Kevin Leiser (third to left) works with fellow state and national advocates to advance farm-friendly policy priorities.

Leiser said continuing Gunderson’s proactive approach to advocacy will be one of his top priorities as president. “We need to make sure we get our message out to the legislators in the Twin Cities, along with the national level,” Leiser said. “A lot of legislators don’t have farming experience, and what they don’t realize in D.C. is every farmer is different – their operations, how they do things. What we do up here is different than what they do in Oregon or Kansas, so we try to make sure the policies fit the Upper Midwest and Minnesota. We need to get the real story out there instead of a story that they got from someone trying to push an agenda.” Leiser feels governmental overregulation has hindered farmers’ freedom to operate. While he’s in favor of sound, voluntary policies that protect farmers and the environment, he’s wary of legislation that overreaches. “I get frustrated when they’re just regulating for the sake of regulating when there’s no science behind it,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re dealing with real problems, not hypothetical ones.” As a longtime farmer leader, Leiser said his activity not only helps his industry, but he also builds relationships and improves his operation through his affiliation with Minnesota Wheat. He’s also a member of several other commodity organizations, including the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. Representing MAWG means joining a larger coalition of likeminded groups, he said. “The more organizations you have at the table, the better off we all are,” Leiser said. “The amount of people advocating is what gets the attention of a legislator.” Continued on Page 12

Full time Leiser’s days are mostly filled with activities. When reached by Prairie Grains Magazine on a Wednesday morning, he was heading to Minnesota Wheat’s Small Grains Update. Outside of his grower leadership commitments and on-farm duties, Leiser keeps busy by attending local social events around Polk County and trekking his children (he and his wife, Valerie, have raised five kids) to events and basketball games.

February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 11

When Kevin speaks up, it’s thought out and with a good vision. He’s not someone who throws in a bunch of words, but when he voices his opinion, people listen. - MAWG First Vice President Austen Germolus

Rep. Michelle Fischbach (back) is in regular engagement with Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers directors, including current President Kevin Leiser and past President Mike Gunderson.

Transitioning operations to the next generation has become an industry-wide priority in recent years. Leiser, who has three adult children, said Minnesota’s Beginning Farmer Tax Credit is a step in the right direction. “Our generation can’t keep farming forever,” he said. “It’s really important for those younger farmers to have an even playing field.” Outside of the policy arena, Leiser is also on Minnesota Wheat’s hiring committee as it begins in earnest a search for a new executive director. “In my eyes, the ideal candidate is someone who relates well with growers and is good with policy on the MAWG side,” Leiser said. Steady leaders Leiser and his brother, Kurt, raise a plethora of crops on their family farm (established in 1881) in the rich soil of the Red River Valley: spring wheat, corn, soybeans, black beans, sunflowers, rye, oats and field peas. After a better-thanexpected growing season in 2023, he’s feeling hopeful for the year ahead while staying even-keeled. “We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “We’ve had some late planting seasons recently, but it looks like we might get an earlier start. Of course, that’s out of our control.” Leiser and his colleagues aren’t just state advocates. Leiser and Gunderson both represent Minnesota on the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). Leiser serves on the internal environment and research committee and hopes to take a greater role within NAWG. Gunderson has served on NAWG as well and currently sits on its domestic and trade policy committee. During NAWG’s Annual Meeting at Commodity Classic, Austen Germolus will assume MAWG’s second position on the national board, while Director Tate Petry remains on NAWG’s budget committee. In addition, MAWG Director Erik Younggren served as NAWG president from 2012-2013. “It’s great to have Erik on the board to bounce ideas off of and go to for advice, given his knowledge of NAWG’s history,” Gunderson said. “We’ve got some

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directors who are really stepping up to the plate and getting involved.” Leiser is also buoyed by MAWG’s strong roster of directors. “Someone like Austen is very good at talking to people,” Leiser said. “I feel all the directors have a really good ability to speak and get our point across.” Moving the needle No one can say Gunderson wasn’t out front representing producers during his presidency. “Mike really set a high standard during his presidency,” Leiser said. “He did a great job pushing our messaging and I really thank him for his service.” During his two years in the big chair, Gunderson appeared in the pages of the Star Tribune, on Fox Business (which later aired on Tucker Carlson’s primetime show) and hosted U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and Rep. Michelle Fischbach at his farm in Bejou, Minn. Gunderson later accepted Fischbach’s invitation to join her farmer advisory committee. Gunderson earned those opportunities, he said, because of his involvement with MAWG. He hopes others follow his lead. “That’s why you join an organization – MAWG helped open up doors to get us in those meetings,” Gunderson said. “Joining groups like MAWG are the only way you’re going to be heard like that.” When Gunderson was elected in 2022 to succeed Gary Anderson, he entered an advocacy world slowly returning to a new normal after the peak of the pandemic. A hybrid of virtual and in-person engagements seemed to suit Gunderson well over the past years. “I definitely prefer in-person meetings, but there are times when having calls over Zoom or Teams is a lot better,” he said. “I was lucky in the sense that I could do both.” Like Anderson before him, Gunderson has handed the reins over to his successor. “As president, you just hope to gradually move the needle if you can,” he said. “I hope I did that, and I think Kevin’s going to keep moving everything forward, too. Minnesota’s in good hands with him.”



Visit for more information!

February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 13

MAWG directors earn face time with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (second to right) during NAWG/USW’s Winter Conference in Washington, D.C.

MAWG advocates meet with senators back home and in D.C. By Drew Lyon In late January, wheat advocates from across the Prairie Grains region descended upon the nation’s capital for the National Association of Wheat Growers/U.S. Wheat Associates Winter Conference. Erik Younggren, District 1 director with the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers (MAWG), returned home early from D.C. – but for good reason. While visiting Capitol Hill with his fellow directors, Younggren learned that Sen. Amy Klobuchar sought a meeting with growers at Minnesota Wheat’s headquarters in Red Lake Falls. Younggren volunteered to change his flight and visit with Sen. Klobuchar, who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee and is running for reelection this year. Younggren, a farmer from Hallock, Minn., was joined by Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council Treasurer Mikayla Tabert, Richard Magnusson of the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative and University of Minnesota Small Grains Specialist Jochum Wiersma. “It was a really cool representation of wheat,” Younggren said. “It was Page 14 Prairie Grains • February 2024

at least her third trip to our office, and I told the senator we appreciate her commitment and presence in greater Minnesota.” Younggren asked the senator to support rebalancing funding for Title I farm safety net programs Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), which help protect wheat growers from significant crop price or revenue declines. “We know the money game in D.C. isn’t going to be easy,” Younggren said. “We just want to be back in line with the other two major crops (corn and soybeans). That would be very helpful for us.” He also explained that about 50% of the U.S. wheat crop is exported. Doubling the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program (which haven’t seen funding increases in decades) would help grow and diversify agricultural markets, Younggren said. These programs see an average return on investment of $24.50 per dollar invested. ‘Paying attention’ During NAWG’s board meeting in Washington, D.C., MAWG President

Kevin Leiser, First Vice President Austen Germolus and Director Mike Gunderson visited with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee) and Sen. John Boozman. Leiser said the general impression was one of cautious optimism for passing a new Farm Bill. However, time is of the essence. With an election looming in nine months, the prospects of passing a new Farm Bill will grow increasingly dim by summertime. “It’s all about getting a Farm Bill passed now,” Leiser said. MAWG directors split into two groups and hit Capitol Hill for a series of legislative visits. Congress was out of session, affording advocates the opportunity for more face time with legislative aides. Between the two MAWG teams, grower leaders visited each of Minnesota’s 10 congressional offices. “You can tell the staffers are really paying attention,” Leiser said. “They’re the ones getting a lot of this legislation done behind the scenes, so it’s important to meet with them.” Advocates from across the U.S. will gather in Houston in late February as part of Commodity Classic.

. s c i t e n e g t s e b ’s y a d o t f o e u l a v e h t e r u t p a C ed Seed.

fi i t r e C a t o k a D h t r o N Plant

MAWG Seeking At-Large Director The Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers has an open At-Large Director position for farmers interested in building their leadership skills while advocating on behalf of the state’s wheat industry. MAWG directors serve three-year terms and represent wheat farmers by promoting farm-friendly legislation in St. Paul and Washington, D.C. The board meets six times annually. All applicants must be active MAWG members. To express interest, contact Interim Executive Director Coreen Berdahl at • Prairie Grains Page,February or call2024 218-253-4311 ext. 7 15

Jochum Wiersma lends his advice to growers at Small Grains Update By Mark Askelson A crystal ball that accurately predicts the best performing variety of spring wheat the coming growing season unfortunately doesn’t exist, but there is important data shared by the University of Minnesota (UMN) Extension Professor and Small Grains Specialist Jochum Wiersma that might shed some light on decision-making for the 2024 growing season. Wiersma presented the data from twenty plus performance evaluation trials across the northern region of the state, essentially from Fergus Falls to Roseau, over the past three growing seasons to farmers during the Small Grains Update Meetings that took place throughout northwest Minnesota Jan. 9-12. ‘In good shape’ Before diving into the performance data, Wiersma provided some insight into the overall yield trends over the past three decades. Grain yields more or less have doubled over that period with an average increase in productivity of about one bushel per year.

Last year, Minnesota spring wheat growers averaged 62 bushels per acre despite a general lack of precipitation in the Prairie Grains region. “To get to that average is remarkable considering how dry it was in parts of the state,” said Wiersma. “Part of that is genetics, part of that is management. Also, May and June were hot, and July was not.” Even though May and June saw above average temperatures, the dry weather led to cooler nights, which helped wheat – a cool season grass – thrive. Those lower dew points from the drought were also credited with the exceptionally cool July. “My old saying is that as long as we can sleep without the air conditioning running, we’re in good shape for small grains,” Wiersma said. The results Since 2013, the University of Minnesota has released seven spring wheat varieties. When it comes to yield, CP3099A has been the top performer over the past two years. LCS Trigger and LCS Buster, along with CAG Justify and newcomer

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WHAT’S OLD IS NEW Wiersma and UMN Wheat Breeder Jim Anderson trade years presenting on spring wheat varieties during the Small Grain Updates. In a separate interview, Anderson said he’s noticed that growers tend to prefer UMN’s older varieties (2017 and earlier). “Growers must trust those older varieties,” Anderson said. “With a new variety, growers will test them on a smaller acreage to see how it does. They rarely go all-in and switch all their acres. Most of the larger growers are growing at least two or three varieties anyway.”

CP3322, were top performers as well. Conversely, the lowest performers for grain yield – Linkert, TCG-Heartland and WB9479– were at the top of the list when it came to protein and baking quality while CP3099A, LCS Trigger and LCS Buster were at the bottom of that same list. “Even though it’s a top-yielder, I wouldn’t recommend CP3099A. It’s an extremely late maturing variety and is highly susceptible to scab,” Wiersma said. “The last two years that hasn’t hurt it, but you are taking a big risk when you plant it.” Despite being amongst the lower yielding HRSW varieties, Wiersma noted Linkert is still a very popular choice amongst growers because of its superb quality and excellent straw strength. Wiersma also ranked the over 40 spring wheat varieties in five other categories, including straw strength, resistance to Fusarium head blight (scab), resistance to bacterial leaf streak, resistance to tan spot and Septoria and resistance to preharvest sprouting. AP Smith and Linkert were the cream of the crop for straw strength, while CP3188, CP3530 and MS Ranchero were amongst the worst. LCS Trigger, LCS Buster, LCS Boom, SY 611 CL2, MNTorgy – a later-maturity variety – and Ascend-SD all fared the best against Fusarium head blight or scab. Meanwhile, CP3099A, AP Murdock, TCGWildcat, SY Longmire, TCG-Heartland, WB9590, WB9479 and CAG Recoil scored the worst and were all in a category that Wiersma cautioned against planting. Continued on Page 18 February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 17

Farmers wanted for Small Grains Pest Survey sites

The Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council is seeking growers in western Minnesota who are interested in participating in the annual Small Grains Pest Survey sites. The University of Minnesota Extension survey, which is supported by wheat checkoff dollars, began in 2011 and is a partnership with North Dakota State University. Participants would grant researchers access to their fields to summer scouts, who are primarily college students, so that they can learn about crop scouting and relay pest information back to the growers. The scouts will be based out of Crookston, Moorhead and Morris and wheat fields that are relatively accessible from the road will be preferred. Growers are emailed the scouting results; all the maps and data will be posted online. The scouting begins in late May or early June and occurs weekly. The data assists researchers in staying ahead of yield-robbing pests and diseases. “Along with all the other pests, one of those we’ll be looking for in 2024 is cereal leaf beetle, which was discovered in Norman County in 2023,” Wiersma said. “The only reason we found it was because of this wheat checkoff-supported survey.” If interested in participating, fill out the online form at or email Anthony Hanson at with questions. Page 18 Prairie Grains • February 2024

Charts courtesy of Jochum Wiersma and James Anderson.

If you’ve encountered bacterial leaf streak on your farm, Wiersma stated that there are several varieties that scored well and should be considered, with LCS Trigger and CP3915 scoring the best. LCS Trigger and LCS Buster again scored highest for the tan spot and Septoria complex of leaf diseases, along with MS Ranchero, PFS Buns, MN-Rothsay and CP3322. “Tan spot and Septoria probably would cause the most yield losses year in, year out if left untreated but is one of the lesser concerns for me because of the effective use of fungicides,” Wiersma said. In the category of susceptibility to preharvest sprouting, which correlates with low falling numbers, most spring wheat varieties scored good or acceptable. The riskiest was the LCS Buster. AscendSD, CAG Reckless, MS Cobra, MS Ranchero, ND Frohberg, PFS Buns and TCG-Spitfire were close behind. The bottom line Taking into consideration yield, grain protein and the different disease risks, Wiersma provided growers with a handful of options he felt were the best bets for planting. MN-Rothsay, Dyna-Gro Ballistic, Dyna-Gro Ambush, SY Valda and Driver were amongst his favorites for higher-yielding varieties but may have issues with either lodging, lower quality or both. More balanced bets included MN-Torgy, CP3530 and SY 611 CL2. He also noted a great early variety would be LCS Cannon. But according to Wiersma, the bottom line isn’t always a straight line, and which varieties farmers grow doesn’t always go together with his top picks. “I’m still a lousy meteorologist and if you ask me what the market is going to do, I have no clue,” Wiersma said. “But the best thing I can do is to tell you to hedge your bets and choose some less risky, overall good options.”

The Small Grains Update Meetings are sponsored by the following organizations: the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers, Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, Minnesota Corn and University of Minnesota Extension. Thanks to everyone who supports the Small Grains Updates!

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February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 19 Always read and follow label directions. Sphaerex is a trademark of BASF. © 2022 BASF Corporation. All rights reserved.

Serving Montana

Montana Wheat & Barley Committee looking forward to 2024

By Cassidy Strommen The Montana Wheat & Barley Committee (MWBC) has its eyes set on 2024 as the organization continues funding research projects and marketing efforts by investing checkoff dollars to support the state’s grain growers. The committee directs funds collected by the checkoff program toward different projects to benefit Montana’s wheat and barley growers, who account for more than 50% of all the major crops harvested in the state. Unlike other checkoff programs, the Montana wheat and barley checkoff is a completely voluntary assessment. Growers find value from checkoff investments: MWBC proudly reports that only 1% of farmers request a refund. “Like a lot of other commissions in the U.S., we get our funds from the checkoff dollar,” said Charlie Bumgarner, District 5 director from Great Falls. “Their charge for us is to focus on marketing, research and education around the whole world about the quality product that comes out of Montana.” Research is a big priority for MWBC; about half of its budget is directed toward funding agronomic research. One of the committee’s consistent focus areas is developing and improving varieties of both wheat and barley. “We are continually looking for varieties that are diseaseresistant, have yield potential and have good end-use qualities,” said Kent Kupfner, executive vice president of MWBC. “Another priority is to look for drought resistant crops that will perform well in our semi-arid climate.” Along with the semi-arid climate comes invasive pests like the wheat stem sawfly. The insect thrives when the spring is wet, and the summer is hot and dry, conditions Page 20 Prairie Grains • February 2024

that Montana producers endure each growing season. According to the USDA, the wheat stem sawfly causes millions of dollars in damage to Montana’s wheat crop each year. Damage occurs when the bug chews its way out of the stem, causing the wheat to tip over, making it difficult to collect the grain come harvest time. “A considerable amount of our research dollars are going toward trying to solve or mitigate damages brought on by the wheat stem sawfly,” Kupfner said. “While the problem lies mostly in Canada and Montana, its stretch is widening to Colorado, the Dakotas, Nebraska and parts of Kansas.” Other research initiatives are focusing on Montana’s Asian customers, helping them figure out a way to use hard

The Montana Wheat & Barley Committee gathers to discuss and approve research proposals for 2024. Since 1967, MWBC has invested $37.7 million in research projects. Images courtesy of MWBC.

and soft varieties of wheat to make various Asian foods. MWBC has sponsored a grower trip to Portland, Ore., to learn about the importance of quality and what it takes to make an Asian noodle or steamed bread. This helps MWBC in its international marketing efforts overseas. “Right now, Montana exports 80% of our crop every year,” said Bumgarner. “We have to market that grain, and so we have to maintain relationships with our customers from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, just to name a few.” In December 2023, MWBC elected to fund 27 applications for the 2024 research cycle. Awards totaled $2,234,327, a 33% increase over the 2023 budget and the largest annual amount invested in MWBC’s history. A full list of the funded projects is available at “Our investment in quality research is critical to improving the wheat and barley industry which in turn raises the bar for Montana’s economy,” MWBC Chair Terry Angvick said. “As representatives of Montana producers, the seven directors evaluate proposals submitted each October and then select those which promise the most opportunity.” Building partnerships Bumgarner is starting his year of travel by attending conventions in the United States, then heading to

Guatemala for the U.S Grains Council. When he isn’t traveling, Bumgarner hosts trade teams from those countries on his own farm and enjoys showing his guests how operations are run in Montana and in the United States overall. “When teams come out of Japan, they don’t have a lot of rural stuff out there,” Bumgarner said. “It’s quite an eyeopening thing for them to see how wide open we are, and how big these farms are.” When MWBC staff and directors aren’t spending time developing their international markets, they spend time educating their domestic ones. A large portion of MWBC’s marketing activities include conventions and trade shows, where audiences are taught about the importance of wheat and barley production in Montana’s economy. Another marketing project that will soon be published includes a preferred variety publication, which will be directed at Montana growers so they can pick and plant varieties that have characteristics preferred by the milling and baking industry. “As an optimist, I am looking forward to another good crop like last year,” said Kupfner, who joined the organization in 2023. “I’m also looking forward to my second year in this role, to gain additional experience and to serve the wheat and barley growers of Montana.”

To subscribe to MWBC’s e-newsletter and crop reports, visit February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 21

‘Way of life’ North Dakota native ushers in new era at NDGGA

By Drew Lyon Kayla Pulvermacher checked a lot of boxes for the North Dakota Grain Growers Association (NDGGA) when she was hired in July 2023 as executive director. Pulvermacher grew up on a farm and ranch near Ambrose, N.D., on a multigenerational operation that raised grain and cattle. She also arrived at NDGGA with more than 15 years of experience as an agriculture lobbyist and advocate. Sometimes, the best opportunities arise when you’re not even searching. “I had a few people mention the job to me, and I wasn’t even looking to leave the organization I was at,” said Pulvermacher, who replaced Dan Wogsland following his retirement after 19 years as NDGGA executive director. “I ended up looking into the opportunity because agriculture is something that I grew up in and truly appreciate.” During her first six months on the job, Pulvermacher has focused her energies on studying NDGGA’s policy positions, reaching out to other commodity groups and attending events in the region, including the 2023 Prairie Grains Conference (NDGGA is a top partner). “That was such a fun event this year,” she said. “It was my first time (at Prairie Grains Conference) and it was amazing to visit all the different growers, organizations and media there.” Pulvermacher is

also working in close collaboration with NDGGA’s board, which is led by President Ed Kessel, who enters his second year in the position. In total, NDGGA supports 12 directors representing the state, along with representatives from the North Dakota Wheat Commission and the North Dakota Barley Committee. “Ed and the board have such a great attention to detail. They’re very focused,” Pulvermacher said. “It’s nice to have a board that’s so interested in the work that we’re doing.” NDGGA is the rare state advocacy group that supports its own lobbyist, Jim Callan, in Washington, D.C. Thanks to Callan’s presence, NDGGA continues strengthening its relationships with North Dakota’s congressional delegation. “It’s so special for us to have our own federal lobbyist,” Pulvermacher said. “What I think is really cool about this organization is we have such a deep and close relationship not only with our delegation, but with federal departments. It’s just been really fun to see what we’re able to do as a state organization.” At the national level, NDGGA is advocating for a new Farm Bill, along with working with the EPA to ensure the interests of North Dakota grain producers are being protected. The organization is also planning its annual summer “E-Tour” with the EPA and agriculture stakeholders. “We try to work collaboratively with the EPA and make sure that ag has a voice because those (EPA policies) have such a direct impact on agriculture,” she said, “but they don’t always understand what we’re actually doing as the boots on the ground here.” NDGGA depends on members to help drive its mission, and Pulvermacher urged farmers and industry leaders to join an advocacy group that’s defended and promoted farm-friendly policies for nearly 60 years. “I think it’s always important to be part of an organization that really represents what you do for a living,” she said. “It’s even more important when it comes to agriculture because it’s not just our profession, it’s our way of life.”

Pulvermacher has started penning her own column, Grain Growers Weekly, on NDGGA’s website ( The organization plans to publish an e-newsletter later this year. Page 22 Prairie Grains • February 2024

‘IT MADE SENSE’: MINNESOTA FARMER PROMOTES HIS PASSION FOR CONSERVATION By being recognized as Minnesota’s Outstanding Conservationist by the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD), Janski Farms are proactive in their role as stewards of the land. Dan Janski, a fourth-generation grower, thought his passion was dairy until he discovered regenerative agriculture, leading to his enrollment in the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). “Our farm started experimenting with cover crops in 2016 or 2017, which really opened up a different world for me,” said Janski, who farms alongside four generations of his family, including his parents and brother. “It was kind of exciting. It was something new that we weren’t familiar with, and it was fun to learn about. Now, it’s become my passion.” A voluntary opportunity, MAWQCP allows growers around the state to take initiative to protect Minnesota’s waters by implementing conservation practices such as reduced tillage and cover crops. Janski Farms tapped into MAWQCP as a resource when the operation wanted to take the leap in experimenting with its production practices. By taking advantage of technical and financial assistance available through the program, Janski viewed MAWQCP as a safety net. “One of the main reasons we went through the MAWQCP was because we were very nervous about experimenting with multi-species cover crops,” Janski said. “Because it’s very expensive and how do you know you’re getting that return on investment when you spend all that money on the seed?” The other deciding factor was that Janski Farms had already implemented many of the production practices to qualify for enrollment. “We were already drastically reducing our tillage,” Janski said. “So, it made sense for us to

Janski Farms enrolled in the MAWQCP in 2021.

complete the program.” Janski Farms, which grows cereal rye, alfalfa, corn, oats, soybeans and canning peas – along with having a one hundred cow dairy – had a few lingering reservations about completing the program. Fortunately, by working with Janski’s local SWCD, those doubts were quelled. “Everyone on our operation was afraid to switch our entire operation to no tillage,” Janski said. “MAWQCP gave us the peace of mind that we are doing better for the watershed, wildlife and nature as a whole.” Janski also gives credit to his USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Without their help, navigating the process would have had a lot more bumps along the way. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without their partnership,” he said. “It’s been a great relationship.” Though financial assistance was a motivator that helped them take the initial leap, Janski would do it all again even if it wasn’t available. “There’s so much of a benefit to doing those things that’s sometimes it’s hard to measure,” he said. Farmers can contact their local SWCD to apply for MAWQCP certification and then complete a series of steps with local certifiers using a 100% site-specific risk-assessment process. By law, all data is kept private, and only by signing a formal release can a farmer’s name be released publicly. After becoming certified, farmers receive a 10-year contract ensuring they will be considered in compliance with any new water quality laws, an official MAWQCP sign to display on their farm and other benefits developed by local MAWQCP providers. Farmers and landowners interested in becoming water quality certified contact their local SWCD or visit

February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 23

American Malting Barley Association releases recommended variety list with three additions By Prairie Grains Magazine staff The American Malting Barley Association (AMBA) Board of Directors annually compiles a list of recommended malting barley varieties for U.S. growers for the upcoming crop year. AMBA is a nonprofit trade organization, which represents the interests of end users of malting barley, including maltsters, brewers, distillers and food processors. AMBA’s work seeks to maintain a stable and high-quality supply of malting barley for its nearly 60 members throughout the U.S. The AMBA Recommended List is intended to provide U.S. growers with guidance as to what varieties the industry may be contracting or purchasing in the coming year. It is not intended as a list of approved or certified malting varieties for the use by brewers, distillers, food companies or maltsters. There may be many suitable malting barley varieties grown domestically or internationally that are not on the list, yet have quality characteristics desired by the industry. Some varieties will be used in large quantities and many others are only used in niche markets, so producers are encouraged to contact their local elevator, grain handler or processor to gauge market demand for any variety grown in their region prior to seeding. Additions to the 2024 list include Avalon, BC Leandra and ABI Raptor. Avalon is a noteworthy variety, which is a product of the public Virginia Tech barley breeding program and was evaluated through the AMBA Quality Evaluation Program where it performed very well. Dr. Wynse Brooks, a retired barley breeder from Virginia Tech, was able to leave Avalon as a parting gift after his long career. Avalon was the first malt barley release to come from the program and it has quickly found success in a broad geographic region that was seeking an improved winter line. Avalon is a two-row winter malting variety bred and released by Virginia Tech. It was developed to grow specifically in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. The new variety was very successful in the field and appreciated by farmers as it produced a healthy stand and exhibited superior agronomic qualities, including earlier maturity than comparable varieties. In the malthouse, it provides high extract with an even modification and low beta-glucan profile while providing an enzyme package meeting the expectations of all malt brewers.

Page 24 Prairie Grains • February 2024

BC Leandra is a two-row spring malting variety developed by Breun Seed GmbH & Co. It has excellent yield potential with shorter overall height and good straw strength while maintaining low protein. It is marketed by Breun as a Flexi-Malt variety, which suggests it can be successful in the field and malthouse with less water, a characteristic anecdotally experienced by early growers. ABI Raptor is a high-performing two-row spring barley variety that offers a good balance of agronomic and malting benefits. In the field, it presents strong straw and matures earlier, correlating to less water needs. ABI Raptor has higher yield potential and low grain protein, however, lower test weight when compared to ABI Voyager. It is susceptible to spot blotch and Fusarium head blight, but these diseases are less frequent in targeted production regions in Idaho and Montana. Producers should also be aware of ABI Raptor’s susceptibility to pre-harvest sprout. Varieties removed from the 2024 list are Innovation, Moravian 37 and ABI Growler – three varieties that have experienced significant decline in acreage over the past several years and are no longer considered recommended varieties to growers.

A benefit of Regular AMBA membership is the ability to request additions to the recommend barley list, given sufficient quality data backs-up the recommendation. To join AMBA, visit With these changes from last year, the list of recommended malting barley varieties for 2024 is as follows (two-row unless otherwise noted by * for six-row varieties): Spring Varieties AAC Connect AAC Synergy ABI Cardinal ABI Eagle ABI Raptor ABI Voyager AC Metcalfe BC Leandra Bill Coors 100 CDC Copeland

CDC Fraser Celebration* Conrad Expedition Explorer Hockett Lacey* Legacy* LCS Genie LCS Odyssey Mayflower Merit 57 Moravian 69 Moravian 164 Moravian 165 Moravian 170 Moravian 179

ND Genesis Newdale Quest* Tradition* Winter Varieties Avalon Endeavor Flavia KWS Donau LCS Violetta Puffin Regina Thoroughbred* Thunder Wintmalt

Providing solutions for your success


747 S. Main St. Warren, MN 56762 February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 25


Wheat Export Basis Levels Support On-Going Competitiveness By Tyllor Ledford, U.S. Wheat Associates Market Analyst During the summer of 2023, U.S. wheat export basis levels hovered near record lows as slow demand met seasonal weakness. Across almost all the U.S. wheat classes and export points, export basis levels hovered below average, signaling a unique pricing opportunity for U.S. wheat. Historical trends indicate that basis levels generally hit their lowest point during wheat harvest and increase in October, November and December as export capacity tightens in response to an influx of corn and soybeans. Following the seasonal pattern, U.S. export basis levels have since risen for all U.S. wheat classes. Despite the increase, the average HRS basis for the Gulf and Pacific Northwest sits 15% below the five-year average, while HRW and SRW sit 31% and 27% below the five-year average, respectively. U.S. Wheat Associates, which directs the wheat checkoff program, has looked at underlying factors driving this trend and its impact during the second half of marketing year 2023/24. Excess capacity meets slow demand The most significant factor influencing the belowaverage basis values is the overall decrease in export volume for grains and oilseeds, particularly for soybeans. According to USDA, for the week ending Dec. 28, 2023, inspections for all grains (wheat, corn and soybeans) dropped 19% from the same period last year and 39% below the three-year average. U.S. soybean exports are down due primarily to South American competition in the Chinese market. Reflected in the December 2023 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, forecast for U.S. soybean exports to all

destinations came in at 47.6 MMT, down from 54.2 MMT in 2022/23 and 58.6 MMT in 2021/22. Meanwhile, total Brazilian exports are forecast at a record 99.5 MMT, up from 95.5 MMT the year prior and 18% above the five-year average as record quantities of soybeans are exported to China. U.S. wheat exports face similar competitive headwinds. USDA export data shows that the export pace sits 14% behind last year and 26% below the five-year average. The decrease in overall grain volume has created surplus capacity in the U.S. logistics systems, particularly for the railroads. As a result, Secondary Railcar Auction Market Bids (a real-time reflection of the supply and demand for rail freight) for October, November and December sit at $65.12/car on average, down from $836.11/car last year, and the five-year average of $262.96/car. The combined impact of excess capacity within the grain handling and logistics system has removed pressure on wheat basis levels and allowed them to drift lower. Basis levels support competitiveness As overall grain export volume remains below average, we can expect the depressing impact on the basis to continue. South American competition for soybean exports will continue to influence grain markets, forcing participants to readjust to the changing dynamic. The combined impact of below-average basis levels and the downward trend in wheat futures prices, driven by competition from the Black Sea, Canada and other origins, has helped improve U.S. wheat competitiveness throughout 2023/24. Therefore, basis movements will continue to play a key role in maximizing value and capitalizing on opportunities as they arise in the market.

Line chart showing export basis levels from December 2022 to December 2023. U.S. export basis levels generally follow a seasonal pattern, hitting lows during the wheat harvest and highs during October, November and December as elevation capacity tightens in response to the corn and soybean harvest. In July 2023, basis levels hovered near record lows as seasonal weakness was coupled with an overall lack of demand. Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Report.

Page 26 Prairie Grains • February 2024

WARNING SIGNS NAWG, USW welcome reopening border rail crossings, caution against repeat By Prairie Grains Magazine Staff The Mexico market is an important destination for grain producers, and a recent trade shutdown showed how border closures can create a ripple effect for agriculture exports. In December 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection closed two crucial rail crossings on the U.S-Mexico border, causing a potentially major disruption in this important trade relationship. The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) have joined several other U.S. agricultural organizations in signing a stern letter urging the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to reopen Texas rail crossings in El Paso and Eagle Point for trade as quickly as possible. “The majority of these exports will become human or animal food in Mexico,” the letter stated. “To needlessly block these shipments creates a real threat of food inflation and increased food insecurity in Mexico.” A huge volume of U.S. wheat sales moves directly to Mexican customers by rail. Mexico is historically the top export market for U.S. wheat with average annual commercial sales totaling nearly 132 million bushels. A substantial volume of U.S. wheat is shipped by rail every year and it is estimated that at least 13 million bushels of wheat, valued at more than $114 million, per year moves through the rail corridors at the El Paso and Eagle Pass

Mexico is also the largest U.S. market for U.S. corn, distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and barley, purchasing 16 million metric tons (MMT), 2 MMT and 317,000 metric tons, respectively, in the 2022-2023 marketing year.

crossings that temporarily closed. Mexican customers use rail to import U.S. wheat from as far away as the Northern Plains and loaded trains are currently waiting to move. This unexpected disruption puts those sales at risk, as well as the positive trading relationship our industry has built over decades as a reliable supplier of high-quality U.S. wheat to Mexican flour millers and their commercial bakery customers. Like the other national agricultural organizations signing the industry letter, USW and NAWG understand the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency have significant challenges given the situation at the border, but a supply chain crisis in Mexico can, and should be, avoided by safely reopening the international crossings. Both NAWG and USW applauded the reopening of the border but warned U.S. Customs and Border Protection that an extended repeat of the closure could have dire consequences down the line. “These rail corridors are essential gateways to many loyal flour millers and their wheat food customers in Mexico who rely on the interconnected U.S. and Mexican rail system for a reliable source of high-quality U.S. wheat,” the two groups said in a statement. “Even short disruptions in this system can have significant negative effects on both sides of the border. We trust CBP will take the steps needed to avoid rail closures in the future, and we are grateful for their efforts to maintain border security and facilitate lawful trade.” February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 27

FARMER-FUNDED RESEARCH How Minnesota’s fertilizer tonnage fee helps AFREC FACTSHEET FORfarmers, LEGISLATORS the economy and our environment By Prairie Grains Staff Most industry professionals throughout Minnesota agriculture are likely aware of the state’s fertilizer tonnage fee and have a general knowledge of the “AFREC” acronym. But what is AFREC and why is it important for Minnesota’s farmers, economy and environment to support this program? AFREC stands for the Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council. The program, which launched in 2008 through the Minnesota Legislature, is tasked with improving fertilizer efficiency, farm profitability and Minnesota’s environment through soil fertility research, technology development and education. AFREC stands for the Agricultural Fertilizer Research and The Council comprises Minnesota farmers – including Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council Education Council. The program, which began in 2008, is The fertilizer tonnage fee that Vice Chair Mark Jossund – and crop advisors from each of the major agricultural groups in the state. Members tasked with improving fertilizer efficiency, farm profitability, supports AFREC is scheduled to sunset serve three-year terms and recently met in January to discuss proposals and AFREC’s approximately $1 million and Minnesota’s environment through soil fertility research, June 30, 2024. In order to continue in funding. technology development, and education. thissaid important “All the growers are paying part of the tax because we’re fertilizing,” Jossund,program, who farmsMinnesota near Moorhead. legislators need to take urgentsome action. “It’sThe important for Minnesota Wheat to be at the table to help decide where those funds go because of that council is made up of Minnesota farmers and crop research goes toward research fertilizing wheat.” advisors from each of the major agricultural groups in The Minnesota agriculture community The selects which research projects with University of Minnesota (UMN) scientists leading theCouncil state. The council’s funding comes from a to 40fund, cent per is unified in support of AFREC and most AFREC-funded That’s because land-grant are equipped with the expertise, staff ton fee on fertilizerstudies. sales in Minnesota. Farmers in the researchershighly recommends that the fee and and equipment to conduct rigorous experiments, so farmers know they’re making crucial stay soil fertility decisions state invest around five cents per cropland acre per year. overall structure the same and based on the best information possible. This raises over $1 million each year. the program be extended for another However, not all AFREC funding is directed by UMN. Farmers, crop advisors and others can also apply at 10 years. This program was conceived, designed, funded, and “AFREC is doing really specific research on fertilizer,” Jossund said. “It’s a really good system, and we’ll be managed with the support of the agricultural community. This factsheet and the companion advocating at the Capitol in St.of Paul for continued funding for the program.” The Minnesota Department Agriculture serves as an detailed report are provided so UMN Extension Nutrient Management Specialist Dan Kaiser useslegislators AFREC funding to improve the university’s important partner to AFREC by collecting and managing and other key decision fertilizer guidelines for wheat,legal especially when guidance, it comes to Nitrogenmakers (N) management. the tonnage fee, providing and technical have a clear understanding of “When I started all myassociated first AFREC-funded wheat in 2008, I feltthe many growers under-applying and overseeing contracts. While thestudy economic value of thewere AFREC program andnitrogen,” he said. “The yield goal system, similar to corn, doesn’t really work for wheat.” payback on the $13 million investment is impressive, the can make an informed decision. That’s because Kaiser many cases where wheat growers’ yield potential was high, but environmental benefitshas to witnessed Minnesota’stoo water resources are protein concentration stayed low. Their N rate would yield but was not enough for optimal protein undeniable. The agricultural community is unified in maximize the Learn more at: concentration. for wheat is a delicate balance because overapplication of N can result in too much continuationNofmanagement the AFREC program. vegetative growth and lodging. AFREC-funded research conducted from 2008 to 2010 in northwest Minnesota

What is AFREC?

Purpose of This Document

AFREC at a Glance



per ton fee on fertilizer sales in Minnesota funds AFREC.

per acre per year net cost to farmers for AFREC program.

raised per year for soil fertility and water quality research, technology and education.


invested in soil fertility research and education in Minnesota since 2008.

Page 28 Prairie Grains • February 2024

Minnesota is one of 14 states with a fee on fertilizer sales to help fund soil fertility research.



SINCE 2008

showed that hard red spring wheat needed nearly 200 pounds of N per acre to optimize yield. Other recent AFREC wheat projects have studied polymer-coated urea (ESN), how wheat affects other crops in the rotation and nutrients other than nitrogen. “There is interest in research on phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur (S) and All the growers are paying part of micronutrients but for the most part, nitrogen is the most critical component of the tax because we’re fertilizing. nutrient management for wheat,” Kaiser said. AFREC also supports educational programming so farmers can learn about It’s important for Minnesota Wheat how to apply researchers’ findings and recommendations to their operations. to be at the table to help decide These efforts include: • Minnesota’s annual Nitrogen Conference and Nutrient where those funds go because Management Conference some of that research goes toward • AFREC’s website research fertilizing wheat. • Minnesota Crop News blog posts • Monthly episodes of the Nutrient Management Podcast -Mark Jossund • UMN Extension videos The Council is supported by a 40-cent per ton fee on bulk fertilizer sales in Minnesota. Farmers in the state invest around five cents per cropland acre per Learn more about AFREC at year, raising more than $1 million each year. When the state legislature created AFREC in 2008, Minnesota became the 12th state to set up such a program. This authority is scheduled to sunset in June 2024, and associated Council functions are scheduled to sunset on June 2025. During the 2024 legislative session, AFREC is seeking a 10-year extension of the program and the 40-cent per ton fee. Soil fertility research is valuable not just for farmers but for all Minnesotans. AFREC’s research improves our AFREC FACTSHEET FOR LEGISLATORS food supply, our economy, our drinking water and environment. The program’s research is vital toward improving Minnesota agriculture. “We’re users of fertilizers and we want to direct where those dollars go,” Jossund said. “AFREC brings a lot of value to growers, and we want to see this program around for a long time.”

AFREC Investments By Topic Nutrient Management

Other Education & Outreach


14% 47%

29% Soil Health & Water Quality

During the 2024 legislative session, AFREC is seeking a 10year extension of the program and the 40-cent per ton fee.

Nutrient Management Helping farmers improve their nutrient use efficiency is key to producing more food with less impact on the environment. Soil Health & Water Quality Minimizing nitrate loss to groundwater and surface water is crucial to maintaining clean water for all Minnesotans, from private well water to the lakes, streams and rivers that provide opportunities for fishing, boating and swimming. Education & Outreach Good research is only valuable if those that can use it know about it. AFREC funds conferences and communication efforts in order to educate farmers and crop consultants about key findings. Other On-farm research and precision agricultural technology are two tools AFREC invests in that reap many benefits. February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 29

Timeline of Legislative Dates and Achievements

ACROSS THE PRAIRIE By Prairie Grains Magazine staff

Prairie Grains wins regional agri-marketing award Prairie Grains Magazine, the official publication of the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers, earned a Merit honor in the Best Company and Association Magazine category at the Region 2 National Agri-Marketing Association Awards (NAMA) in Kansas City, Mo. The magazine submitted three issues from 2023, including a cover story from August-September on the North Dakota Grain Growers Association’s annual E-Tour. It is the first time the magazine has earned national recognition. Prairie Grains will now be entered into the national Best of NAMA in Kansas City, Mo., on April 26. Prairie Grains is distributed to more than 23,000 subscribers throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. In April 2024, the publication will celebrate its 200th issue. Minnesota Department of Agriculture now accepting applications for 2024 Beginning Farmer Tax Credit The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Rural Finance Authority (RFA) is now accepting applications for the 2024 Beginning Farmer Tax Credit, an annual program available to landlords and sellers (asset owners) who rent or sell farmland, equipment, livestock and other agricultural assets to beginning farmers. The Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers is proud to support this tax credit. Asset owners can claim credits in one of the following categories in a given tax year for each beginning farmer they lease/sell to: Total funding available for the 2024 Beginning Farmer Tax Credit program is $4 million. The credits are funded in a first-come, first-served manner, so applicants are highly encouraged to apply early in the year before the stated deadlines. Both the asset owners and beginning farmers must submit applications with lease and/or sale documents to be eligible for funding and to hold their place in line. They may apply before sales close, if needed.

Page 30 Prairie Grains • February 2024

Qualifying asset owners can include individuals, trusts or qualified pass-through entities renting or selling land, livestock, facilities, buildings or machinery used for farming in Minnesota to a beginning farmer. Through changes made to the program during the 2023 legislative session, parents, grandparents and siblings are now eligible for the tax credit if they sell farmland to a direct family member. However, this does not apply to leases or non-land sales (e.g., livestock, vehicles). A beginning farmer is defined as a Minnesota resident with the desire to start farming or who began farming within the past 10 years. They must provide positive projected earnings statements, have a net worth less than $979,000, and enroll in, or have completed, an approved Farm Business Management (FBM) program. Beginning farmers are also eligible for a nonrefundable Minnesota tax credit equal to the amount paid for FBM tuition, up to a maximum of $1,500. This tax credit is available for up to three years. Full eligibility requirements and application materials can be found on the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit web page. Questions may be directed to Jenny Heck at or 651-201-6316. Red River Farm Network gains new affiliate The Red River Farm Network has announced its newest radio affiliate, KWOA AM 730, in Worthington, Minn. KWOA covers southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa and southeast South Dakota. RRFN champions hometown radio stations that understand the value of serving their community and the importance of agriculture. Red River Farm Network now supports more than 20 affiliates across the Northern Plains. To subscribe to the network’s weekly FarmNetNews e-newsletter, visit

their work to assure economic security for the next generation of farmers by leaving their land in better shape than it was when they started farming it. “First and foremost, we are stewards of this land, so we can pass it on to the next generation,” South Dakota farmer Nick Jorgensen said. Episode 1 of Stories of Stewardship focused on the variety of sustainable practices applied by the five farm families producing different classes of wheat across the wide range of growing conditions in the United States. The five-episode series covers individual Stories of Stewardship from family farmers, including Park River, N.D., farmer Aaron Kjelland. In addition to USW’s Facebook page, the Stories of Stewardship series can be viewed on the USW website, Vimeo, X and LinkedIn. Northern Crops Institute releases Stone Milling Handbook The Northern Crops Institute Stone Milling Handbook provides readers with an overview of the stone milling process and the different ways it can be used. The handbook is an invitation to gain basic, introductory knowledge about stone mill features and benefits. It allows readers to delve into the production, processing and marketing of products that can be stone milled. NCI strives to provide encouragement for our readers to continue to explore the vast array of opportunities to improve their milled products for quality and nutritional value. Visit to order your copy.

U.S. Wheat Associates launches ‘Stories Of Stewardship’ video series The time and effort U.S. farmers put into caring for the land makes for a story that is not shared often enough. A new video series produced by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) aims to change that for overseas wheat buyers by focusing on how producers help feed the world while also acting as stewards of soil, water and the environment. USW’s “Stories of Stewardship” project goes straight to the source. Five wheat farmers in five different states appear on camera, from their farms, to talk about

February 2024 • Prairie Grains Page 31

IT’S NOT JUST YOUR LAND. IT’S YOUR LEGACY. The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program rewards farmers like you for what you do best, taking care of your land and its natural resources. To get started and learn more, contact your local soil and water conservation district or go to:

Page 32 Prairie Grains • February 2024

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