MAPLE GROVE, Minn. – Farmers and crop retailers have learned how to plan ahead after two very wet springs. So, most crop inputs are in place as the growing season begins.
The first wave of input products needed – fertilizers, seed treatments, and herbicides are available across Minnesota for planting time, said Bill Bond, Minnesota Crop Production Retailers (MCPR) executive director.
MCPR promotes the proper use, storage and application of crop production inputs in an environmentally safe and agronomically sound manner. The organization also supports regulatory and legislative initiatives that benefit retailers, manufacturers, distributor and custom applicators of crop production inputs.
“When we learned there was going to be some orders about sheltering-in-place, immediately the concern of growers was expressed directly to us and to our members who are crop providers across Minnesota,” Bond said.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s cabinet, including Commissioner of Ag Thom Peterson and staff, worked with the MCPR to define what challenges existed for getting crop inputs where they were needed.
“Even a day or two lost in the height of the spring season, due to limited crop inputs, and planting and fertilizing and treatment, that would set agriculture back,” Bond said. “With an already fragile economy in agriculture, that is just not something that anybody wants to imagine.”
Crop retailers have assured Bond that supplies are adequate for planting.
The MCPR group has also set up practices for keeping employees and growers safe from COVID-19.
These include retailers who take orders and payments over the phone or internet. When picking up an order, growers stay in their cabs while workers load trucks.
The MCPR has kept track of any COVID-19-related facility closures or other concerns.
Early in Minnesota’s shelter-in-place starting on March 16, one retail facility in Minnesota closed because someone was exposed to COVID-19. A manufacturing facility out-of-state for pesticides and herbicides closed down due to exposure to COVID-19, he added.
“We are keeping track of all these types of things to make sure supplies are where they are needed,” he said. “There have been anticipated shortages, but none actually that were reported to us.
“If something were to interrupt what we call our second wave – where we have to replenish the supplies – that would be more of a concern.”
One of the challenges for Minnesota is its location means crop inputs always reach this region later than they would for Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Nebraska. In the past, the state has dealt with fertilizer supply challenges because the barges couldn’t make it up the flooded or iced Mississippi River. That doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem this year.
Mother Nature has provided a slow spring-melt in 2020, which is giving producers across the Midwest more time to apply inputs, as well as greater access to products.
Probably the biggest challenge has been transport – having enough CDL licensed truckdrivers available to carry the loads, Bond said. The agricultural community is so organized and creative that any problems are getting worked out, he added.
For instance, mandatory dicamba training is available at www.mcpr-cca.org for anyone. Online dicamba training replaces in-person sessions that are not available due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“From my perspective, we see this thing going just right because everyone’s understood what’s at stake here if we don’t get the crops in the ground,” he said.