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Floyd Hanson maneuvers a big round bale of straw for bedding the cattle. Bear is always busy on the farm. Not pictured is Corey Hanson who is nearby and works with his dad on chores. Photo by Andrea Johnson.

GARY, Minn. – On a busy March 2, Corey Hanson took a break from hauling grain to give his report.

He’d been making two trips a day from Gary, Minn., to Casselton, N.D., delivering corn to the ethanol plant. Local elevator discounts were high on the light test-weight corn, so he trucked the corn 60 miles west. It was better suited for ethanol production than as domestic feed or for export markets. He made about 50 cents more per bushel hauling it to Casselton.

Moving grain before the spring load limits went into place was a priority.

In recent days, Corey had visited the FSA office and made his determinations for the farm program. He signed up for the Agriculture Risk Coverage-County program for soybeans, and Price Loss Coverage for corn and wheat.

He also made an appointment to talk about his CRP acres that were set to expire. He’d offered a bid and was waiting to see if the land was going to be re-accepted into the program. There were some additional programs that he could have applied for – that would raise his “points,” but Corey worried the more restrictive programs would keep him from cleaning out silt from a waterway. If the silt filled in, it could create an unwanted wetland on his farmland.

The 2019 taxes were done, and Corey had written a check to complete that task. Plans and budgets for the 2020 growing season were in place, with seed and fertilizer paid up.

Spring harvest – or as Corey called it, “Harvest 2019 1/2” began in northwest Minnesota. The farmers that were in the fields used tracks – and the cold, snow and ice were hard on the equipment. Combine operators didn’t use the chopping mechanism on their corn headers, and they kept the headers above the snow drifts. Corn moisture levels ranged from 16-21 percent.

The Hansons were not yet in their cornfield because they use duals plus rear-wheel-assist on their combine.

The snow was settling, he said. In late-February, Corey had sunk into the snow at least knee-deep when he checked the cornfield. In early-March, with temperatures at or near thawing, Corey had found he could walk on the hardened snowdrifts.

He had driven down to Fergus Falls, Minn., as well as to Casselton, and neither area had as much snow as Norman County.

“It’s ankle deep around there,” he said. “I still have piles of snow that are 20-30 feet tall.”

He thought he might try combining corn during the second week of March. If conditions stayed dry and farmers were able to get the corn out, it would make a much easier start for the 2020 growing season.

The cow herd and heifers mostly operated in “auto-steer” in early-March. The Hansons spent hours feeding the herd and observing for any concerns. Corey planned to take the tractor loader and physically remove snow from the cow yard. He and his dad, Floyd, would lay down straw for the cows ahead of calving.

Corey noted that March 1-7 is Agriculture Safety Awareness Week, and he wanted to reiterate the importance of staying safe in March. Thinking again of his neighbor, Jerry Chisholm, who died in a grain bin accident in December, Corey asks rural people to be safe. Harvesting in the snow is risky. Combines and ladders aren’t designed for snow, and it can be easy to slip and fall. The corn, soybeans and wheat may have higher moistures, and the grains can easily bridge in the bin. He asks that his neighbors and friends take extra time to make sure they are safe. If something starts to go wrong in an unharvested cornfields, it’s okay to stop and take up the task the next day. Always, always let someone know where you are when you are completing these difficult jobs and try to work with a partner if at all possible.

Coming home safely each day needs to be the top priority for everyone.