Iowa county conservation efforts paying off

It has been said if the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must go to the mountain, and a similar thing could be said about recycling for Dickinson County, Iowa.
Back in the early 2000s, or possibly even a bit before, rural recycling drop-off locations were established within the county. Up until early this year, those sites were still in place. But now each city within the county has established recycling drop-off points they share with the rural community.
However, the Dickinson County Conservation Board decided to expand and centralize the county’s recycling efforts at one location a few years back, making the Dickinson County Recycling Center a countywide site not only for rural residents, but also for any resident living within the county.
The results have been a boon to the recycling effort for everything from hazardous waste to green waste.
“I’m going on my third year here managing our Dickinson County Recycling Center,” Charles Vigdal said. “Technically we are a designated regional collection center for recyclables. But the state of Iowa is good with disposing of household hazardous waste. Our site is just one of many such sites in the state — pretty much every county has one.”
Vigdal is the only full-time employee at the Milford, Iowa, site, but normally has two part-time employees who help him.
“Our two part-time employees unfortunately are in a higher risk category for COVID-19, so we have had to limit our hours here because of that to being open the same as our winter hours and we are presently not able to take any household hazardous waste either for the same reason,” Vigdal said. “We are just short of help here now.”
But the Dickinson County Recycling Center is taking all appliances for recycling, as well as green waste — a lot of both, he added.
“We take any appliances or white goods for a fee of $15 each,” Vigdal said. “We also take electronic waste such as televisions — whether tube-type or flat panels — as well as miscellaneous CPUs, and those fees range from $20 to $35, depending on their screen size.”
The recycling center also takes tires of various sizes for a fee and people are encouraged to call ahead regarding the fees charged for larger agricultural tires, as well as any other specialized larger tires.
“When we are taking household hazardous waste materials, there is no fee to our county residents for dropping them off here,” he said. “But small commercial businesses need to call for pricing regarding the disposal of their hazardous waste material.”
Although the recycling of green waste at the Dickinson County Recycling Center is on a fee basis starting with bagged yard waste at just 50 cents a bag on up to $10 per pickup load and as high as $60 for roll-off side dumps, Vigdal said there is a very big side benefit to Dickinson County residents at the recycling center from that.
“People who are residents of Dickinson County can come here and pick up wood chip mulch and compost for free if they load it themselves,” Vigdal said. “We have a loader here, too, and a wood chipper so we can turn our green waste like trees, shrubs and bushes brought here into mulch for people to pick up free. And, for a $10 fee, we will load up to 3 cubic feet of the mulch for them. And that is a lot of mulch.”
Residents of the county can also pick up free compost if they load that themselves or, for the $10 fee, can have the center load up to 3 cubic feet of the compost.
“This year, the mulch and the compost has been very popular with our residents,” he said. “In fact, we are down on both right now.”
The compost is run through a screener to remove rocks or gravel, which makes it a better compost for soil and reduces soil compaction as well, Vigdal said.
When hazardous household waste is once again accepted at the center, residents will be able to come in and turn in things like paint, stains, adhesives, pesticides and herbicides and other hazardous waste items at their swap shop, trading them for other hazardous items they might need or just leaving them for others to pick up without a fee too.
“At our swap shop, which is really low right now, people can actually pick up useable things without having anything to swap if the item is something they can actually use,” Vigdal said.
The Dickinson County Recycling Center is located at 2260 220th St., Milford, Iowa.


Royalwood Farms makes a habit of teaching people about the dairy industry and agriculture

Teaching people about the dairy industry and agriculture is important to brothers Doug Ode and Gregg Ode, who own Royalwood Farms, south of Brandon, S.D.
About 12 years ago they started an event called Breakfast on the Farm to do just that. Doug said they were planning to expand their dairy herd at the time and ran into opposition from neighbors, who were concerned that the dairy would stink and ruin their quality of life. The Odes decided to take a proactive approach to the situation.
“We decided to bring in the public to show them what we do,” Doug said.
They organized an event that included breakfast, activities for children, vendors, equipment demonstrations, free shakes, tours of the farm, giveaways and more. About 400 people attended the event the first year. Doug said it’s grown since then and attracted almost 1,100 people a couple years ago.
He said some people come check it out once and some make it an annual event. He said they’ve noticed that several young families from Sioux Falls tend to come out to the event.
“It’s a very good learning process for them,” Doug said.
Unfortunately, breakfast on the farm will not be held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and road construction near the farm. Doug said they’re taking the year off and plan to bring it back next year.
In addition to the Breakfast on the Farm, the Odes also give tours. Doug said they provide eight to 10 tours a year on average to expose people to and educate them about agriculture.
“It surprises me how many people don’t know anything about agriculture,” Doug said.
Their hope is that by showing them their dairy, people will see what agriculture is really like and have a positive impression of it.
“You’ve got to be proactive,” Doug said.
Their proactive efforts don’t stop at the farm. Doug is on the Minnehaha County Planning and Zoning Board, the South Dakota Dairy Producers, the Midwest Dairy Producers and the Mid-America Select Sires, and Gregg is on the Brandon Valley School Board.
“It’s very important to be involved in your community,”Doug said.
Royalwood Farms consists of 430 mature cows. Gregg’s son Alex owns some cows in the herd as well and helps on the farm when he’s not working for Bel Brands in Brookings. The brothers also employ five others.
Doug said the Odes put effort into making their cows comfortable. That includes high quality feed, barns and holding areas with fans and misters that open up to let the wind blow through, sand bedding, regular hoof trimming and milking three times a day.
Doug, Gregg and their father, Bob, started the partnership and formed Royalwood Farms in 1983 after the brothers graduated from South Dakota State University. Bob and his brothers had their own partnership and farmed west of Brandon at the time. Their operation included dairy, hogs and crops.
Their father split off from the partnership with his brothers and formed a partnership with his sons to help them get started.
“If it wouldn’t have been for dad, it wouldn’t have been possible,” Doug said.
Their father still has some ownership in the business, but it’s primarily run by Doug and Gregg today.
Doug said Bob and their mother Marilyn live on the Royalwood Farms site as do Gregg and his wife Jane, and Gregg’s son Alex. Doug lives in Brandon with his wife Amy.
“I do miss the living out in the country,” Doug said.
In addition to the dairy operation Royalwood Farms grows 750 acres of alfalfa and corn. Doug said they use the crops to feed their cows and sell the rest.
Doug said he chose farming as a profession due to a love of the land and livestock and because it’s a great way to raise a family.
“I’ve never thought of anything else,” he said. “I wanted to be a dairy farmer.”

Richard fordyce 300

Critical Dairy Payment

March margin triggers first Dairy Margin Coverage program payment of year
The March 2020 income-over-feed cost margin was $9.15 per hundredweight, triggering the first payment of the year for local dairy producers who purchased the appropriate level of coverage under the Dairy Margin Coverage program.
FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said the payment comes at a critical time for many local dairy producers.
“It is the first triggered DMC payment for 2020,” Fordyce said, “and the first payment to dairy producers in seven months.”
Current projections indicate a DMC payment is likely to trigger every month for the remainder of 2020, a different expectation from last July when some market models had forecast no program payments for 18 months.
Authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, DMC is a voluntary risk management program that offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price — the margin — falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. More than 13,000 operations enrolled in the program for the 2020 calendar year.
Although DMC enrollment for 2020 coverage has closed, Fordyce said dairy producers should look for FSA to open sign up for 2021 coverage in July.
USDA Service Centers, including FSA county offices, are open for business by phone only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All service center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other service center agency are required to call their service center to schedule a phone appointment.


Pandemic slows down beef supply line

As is it has done with most aspects of life, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the supply chain between the producers who raise cattle and the consumers who enjoy beef products.
Producers in southwest Minnesota said the pandemic has had little impact on their day-to-day operations. They’re feeding their cattle and preparing them for sale as usual. The problems and uncertainty begin once the cattle are ready to leave the farm.
“There is absolutely no meat shortage in this country,” said Jay Bakken, president of the Rock- Nobles Cattlemen’s Association who raises cattle west of Luverne. “What we have is a processing problem.”
Bakken said the pandemic has had two primary effects on the beef industry.
The first problem for the industry came when Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz closed restaurants and schools back in March in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Bakken said over 50 percent of beef goes to food service, which includes restaurants and schools. When those consumers were removed, Bakken said it took a huge chunk out of the demand for beef. At the same time there was a large surge in demand for beef in grocery stores that the packaging plants could not keep up with.
Bakken said that’s because the supply chain was not set up to have one segment of beef consumer (food service) suddenly drop to zero percent and another (grocery stores) rise to 100 percent. Packaging and processing facilities and distribution lines were not able to immediately redirect all of the product to grocery stores.
“It’s hard to switch gears that fast,” Bakken said.
He said that issue was eventually resolved, but then the second problem arose. COVID-19 outbreaks started to appear in packaging plants. Some plants were closed and production in others slowed down as workers became sick and the plants took measures to prevent outbreaks and keep employees safe.
Producers said the packaging plant closures or slow downs are limiting the amount of beef products available to grocery stores.
“Basically, it’s creating a shortage effect,” said Jon Caraway, who raises registered Red Angus cattle north of Lake Benton and is president of the Southwest Cattlemen’s Association, which includes Lincoln and Lyon counties.
Producers said that could lead to higher prices at the grocery stores, at least in the short term until packaging plants are back up and running. Bakken said that any increase in prices will not likely help producers because it will be the result of the packaging plants raising the prices to slow down demand. As a beef producer, he’s concerned that slowing of demand could eventually be detrimental to beef producers.
Producers are hoping that packaging plants reopen quickly and the matter is resolved, but Bakken said it could take a while.
“I think it’s going to be a slower process than we’d like,” he said.
Meanwhile, beef and other meat producers are limited or have no where to go with their animals for processing. Bakken said he’s not had any market ready animals since the pandemic began, but he will this month and in mid-July.
“It hasn’t affected me yet, but I can see it right down the road,” he said.
Beef producers said the slow down at the packaging plants won’t likely have as significant of an effect on the beef industry as it has on the pork industry due to the nature of the animals, the facilities they’re kept in and other factors. Ultimately, cattle could get too large to process, but it would take longer than it does for pigs.
Justin Louwagie, who custom feeds cattle north of Green Valley and is secretary of the Southwest Cattlemen’s Association, said if cattle grow to large, the owner might receive less for the animals, but they will still likely be able to sell them. For that reason, Bakken said he doesn’t think beef producers will be forced to euthanize any animals unless the packaging plant issues are not resolved for quite some time.
“We’ve got more flexibility,” he said.
The pandemic is affecting different producers in different ways depending on their operation.
Louwagie said the owner of the cattle he raises has had trouble selling them lately. The owner is also not bringing as many cattle to Louwagie. Typically, he has about 370 cattle on site, but he said in early May that he had only 200. He said some of those would typically have already been sent to market.
Caraway sells breeding stock, so he’s not dealing with packaging plants. He said he hasn’t been affected by the pandemic yet, but that if attendance at cattle auctions is down as a result of the pandemic and social distancing guidelines, there will be fewer bids and he’ll likely receive lower prices for his cattle. And if producers can’t sell their cattle, they might not be buying stock from people like him.