Karl Duncanson, Tim Gerlach and Al Juhnke receive MCGA awards at MN Ag EXPO 2016

Tim Gerlach

Tim Gerlach

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) recognized three individuals for their outstanding contributions to agriculture and corn farming recently at MN Ag EXPO 2016 in Mankato.

Karl Duncanson and Tim Gerlach were named co-recipients of the Golden Kernel Award, which is awarded to individuals who were at one time directly involved with Minnesota Corn. Duncanson was a third-generation farmer in Mapleton who served on the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council (MCR&PC). He tragically died in a car accident in May of 2015.

Gerlach served as executive director of Minnesota Corn for nearly seven years before departing the organization in October of 2014. Before joining Minnesota Corn, Gerlach worked for the American Lung Association in Minnesota and played a major role in expanding the use of homegrown ethanol fuel.

Receiving MCGA’s Friend of Agriculture award was Al Juhnke, a former state representative, aide to Senator Al Franken and currently the new executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.

Here is more information on each award winner:

Karl Duncanson

Karl Duncanson

Karl Duncanson, Mapleton (Golden Kernel Award)
Before Duncanson’s tragic car accident, he shared his uninhibited passion for agriculture for two years on the MCR&PC. Prior to serving on the MCR&PC, Duncanson was involved with the State Cattlemen’s Association, Southern Minnesota Research & Outreach Center and his local church.

“Minnesota agriculture lost one its biggest advocates when Karl passed away,” said Doug Albin, a farmer in Clarksfield and current chair of the MCR&PC. “Karl stood up for farmers with a smile on his face and a positive attitude that impacted everybody who was fortunate enough to meet him. We miss Karl dearly, but we were proud to honor him and his legacy with this award.”

Tim Gerlach, Rainy Lake (Golden Kernel Award)
Under Gerlach’s nearly seven years of leadership, Minnesota Corn greatly expanded its research efforts, helped grow the market for homegrown ethanol fuel, expanded its membership base to record numbers and amplified the collective voice of Minnesota corn farmers.

“Tim used his vision and leadership to help us become an organization that seeks solutions to the challenges facing today’s corn farmers,” said Dr. Adam Birr, MCGA’s current executive director. “Minnesota also wouldn’t be a national leader in ethanol if it wasn’t for Tim’s work. Corn farming is truly in a better place thanks to Tim’s efforts.”

Al Juhnke

Al Juhnke

Al Juhnke (Friend of Agriculture Award)
For 14 years, Juhnke was a leading voice on agriculture, biofuels and rural issues in the Minnesota House of Representatives, where he also served a term as Agriculture and Veterans Affairs Finance Committee Chair. In 2011, Sen. Al Franken asked Juhnke to join his staff as an energy advisor, a position he held until recently being named executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers.

“Minnesota’s loss is truly Nebraska’s gain. We were sad to see Al leave our state,” said Anna Boroff, MCGA’s senior public policy director. “But that doesn’t diminish the many things Al accomplished for agriculture and rural Minnesota while he was here. Al’s work helped make agriculture a key driver of Minnesota’s economy, and for that, we’re forever grateful.”

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Talking farming without the ‘farmspeak’

by Jonathan Eisenthal


CommonGround Minnesota volunteers Lauren Biegler (right) and Rebekah Gustafson (center) talk with attendees at MN Ag EXPO 2016.

You know what an ‘elevator’ is—it’s a grain storage facility.

An ‘operation’? It’s a farming entity comprising all the pieces of land, buildings and equipment you and your family and partners use to raise crops and livestock.

But for people who don’t farm or have an ag background, a large percentage of the population, those words can have an entirely different meaning.

An elevator carries people up and down to different floors of a building. An operation is what happens in a hospital. And when a farmer talks about a “combine”, it can be confusing if you’re not familiar with agriculture lingo.

Rebekah Gustafson and Lauren Biegler have devoted lots of time and energy to telling the story of agriculture—they are among 22 farm women who volunteer with CommonGround Minnesota. CommonGround is a group of farm women who connect with consumers about food and farming.

Biegler, Gustafson, and more than 75 other farm women volunteers from across the U.S. recently attended the National CommonGround Grassroots Conference in Washington D.C. There they had the opportunity to learn about the latest consumer research, hear experiences from other volunteers and staff, and more. One of the standout topics from the conference for both Biegler and Gustafson was the discussion about ‘farmspeak’.

“It was a helpful reminder for me to pay attention to how I use farm terminology in conversations. That can be hard to do and it takes some practice,” says Biegler, who farms with her husband near Lake Wilson.

Gustafson raises corn, soybeans, hay and horses with her husband on their farm near Osceola. She says when you cut out the ‘farmspeak’, it’s easier to talk to people about their food and how it gets from field to fork.

CGMN at the CG National Conference

CommonGround Minnesota volunteers and staff attended the CommonGround National Grassroots Conference Jan. 20-22, 2016.

“Farmers are growing safe, affordable, and healthy food. But sometimes that information can get lost in translation,” says Gustafson. “We throw out all this lingo in our conversations— ‘no-till’ and ‘farrow-to-finish’ for example. Not everybody may know what those terms mean.”

In addition to all the informational sessions, the National CommonGround Conference was also an opportunity for attendees to connect and network with other volunteers and staff from across the country.

“We talk (with other volunteers) through social media all the time, but it was nice to finally see everyone in person,” says Biegler. “It’s great to meet other women who are just as passionate about ag advocacy as I am and to share experiences and ideas. It energizes you.”

CommonGround is a joint program of the National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates. More than 160 women from 20 states are involved in CommonGround.  Learn more at FindOurCommonGround.com or like CommonGround Minnesota on Facebook.

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Attention Ted Cruz (and others): Ethanol is not subsidized

Ted Cruz is a presidential candidate who continues to push the myth that ethanol is subsidized.

Even though the Iowa caucuses are now over, ethanol will likely remain a topic during the presidential campaign — especially if notoriously anti-ethanol and pro Big Oil candidate Ted Cruz continues to perform well.

Ethanol and homegrown biofuels will also remain in the news as the Senate recently began discussing the Energy Policy Modernization Act, which seeks to reestablish the federal government’s scope of authority across the national energy sector.

Unfortunately, whenever ethanol is in the news and the national spotlight, myths and misinformation follow. You’ll undoubtedly be hearing about ethanol “subsidies” (ethanol is not subsidized), corn ethanol “mandates” (there is no mandate for corn ethanol) and the “free market” (there is no free market in the energy sector, it’s dominated by petroleum).

Thankfully, organizations like the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) are out there to sift through all the myths and misinformation to help the truth rise through the clutter and misguided talking points. RFA recently released a two-page questions and answers document that addresses myths surrounding ethanol, energy subsidies and the Renewable Fuel Standard.

You can read the document here. Here’s a sample:

Is there a “corn ethanol subsidy”?

No, contrary to what is often reported on the campaign trail, there is no such thing as a “corn ethanol subsidy.” The Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (which was also known as the “blender’s tax credit”) expired five years ago in 2011. Further, it was gasoline blenders—not ethanol producers—who received the tax credit for each gallon of ethanol blended. The Small Ethanol Producer Tax Credit, which provided a modest tax incentive for ethanol produced by small facilities, also expired in 2011.

Want more? Here’s another sample:

But oil companies say they don’t receive government subsidies. What’s the truth?

While oil industry trade groups like to claim that fossil fuels aren’t subsidized by the taxpayer, nothing could be further from the truth. Oil producers and refiners are the recipients of $4-6 billion in federal tax incentives and subsidies every year, and many of these favorable tax provisions never expire. Some of the subsidies available to oil producers have existed for more than a century, and the Joint Committee on Taxation recently estimated that elimination of certain “fossil fuel preferences” (i.e., subsidies) would save U.S. taxpayers at least $24.5 billion—or roughly $210 per U.S. household—between 2015 and 2020.

There’s also a chart that details the numerous subsidies and tax credits enjoyed by the oil industry.

Once again, you can view the entire document here. Share it on social media, show it to your friends and bring it out every time you hear someone misguidedly ranting about ethanol “subsidies.”

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Closing the book on another successful MN Ag EXPO

Another MN Ag EXPO has come and gone. We’ll have several more posts covering everything that went down last week at MN Ag EXPO 2016 in Mankato, but for now, here are some photos of the attendees, exhibitors and speakers that make EXPO the must-attend agriculture event in Minnesota every winter.

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Fabian Fernandez from the University of Minnesota, left, was one of several agriculture researchers available to visit with EXPO attendees.

Thank you to agriculture commissioner Dave Frederickson, second from left, for attending EXPO.

Thank you to agriculture commissioner Dave Frederickson, second from left, for attending EXPO.

FFA helps make any agriculture event in Minnesota better. MN Ag EXPO was no exception.

FFA helps make any agriculture event in Minnesota better. MN Ag EXPO was no exception.

A meeting of the minds: Former MCGA executive director Tim Gerlach visits with current executive director Adam Birr.

A meeting of the minds: Former MCGA executive director Tim Gerlach visits with current executive director Adam Birr.

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Lynn Ketelsen, left, of Linder Farm Network interview George Rehm of Discovery Farms Minnesota.

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CommonGround Minnesota volunteers at the MCGA booth with regional representative Dale Busch.

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MN Ag EXPO traditionally features many informative, insightful and entertaining speakers.

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It’s not just the EXPO stage where all the lively discussion and debate happens. EXPO provides an excellent opportunity to network and visit with other farmers and agriculture experts.

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Where do presidential candidates stand on agriculture and rural issues?

hillaryWith the Iowa caucuses happening today, the 2016 presidential race will begin to consume even more airtime and print space than it already does. If you still have questions about where the candidates stand on agriculture and rural issues, here are some excellent resources:

Rural Route to the White House
This site from AgriPulse contains links to articles on any and all stories related to individual candidates and their views on important food, farming and rural issues.

The folks at Ballotopedia pull direct quotes and specific policy proposals from the candidates and agriculture and rural topics.

trumpIowa Agriculture Summit summary
The Iowa Agriculture Summit took place in March, but it’s helpful to go back and review what the candidates had to say in front of a most farm and rural audience. This summary from AgWeb covers most of those bases.

How about ethanol?
If you want to know how the candidates grade when it comes to homegrown renewable fuels like ethanol, check out the report card issued by America’s Renewable Future.

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Al-Corn Clean Fuel’s position within a changing ethanol marketplace

AlCornAnyone involved in agriculture knows that the sector is not immune to the up-and-down cycles of the marketplace. Domestic and global market demands, weather, public policy decisions and the political environment are but a few of the variables that can impact a producer’s bottom line.

That is why there is great value in the cooperative model for agricultural producers. The processing of members’ corn adds significant value to their crop. Both members and their local communities benefit when farmers have additional income to spend on local goods and services.

In 1994 the ethanol industry in the United States was producing approximately 1 billion gallons of ethanol per year. Fuel ethanol was a niche market at that time, finding its way into local markets. It was not in use much outside the Midwest and the total volume of ethanol being used amounted to less than 1 percent of the nation’s gasoline demand.

Fast forward to today and you find that domestic use of ethanol in our gasoline supply is at that 10 percent level. That means that practically every gallon of gasoline sold in the United States is a 10 percent blend with ethanol. Our current gasoline demand in the United States is approximately 138 billion gallons per year. That creates a domestic demand for ethanol of roughly 13.8 billion gallons. The constructed capacity of the conventional ethanol industry in the United States is 15.5 billion gallons, and growing.

By the time 2017 rolls around, it is likely that the ethanol industry will have a constructed capacity in excess of 17 billion gallons per year.

We have just come out of one of the most profitable periods in ethanol’s history. Debt is down, lenders are a bit friendlier, and management and boards have matured and learned. We have also come through a couple of periods of consolidation of ownership, so the industry is currently in fewer hands. This means a previous decision to expand capacity would affect only one facility where today that could be five, 10, or more.

That is why there is great value in owning ethanol plants for agricultural producers. Anyone involved in agriculture knows that the sector is not immune to the up-and-down cycles of the marketplace. Domestic and global market demands, weather, public policy decisions and the political environment are but a few of the variables that can impact a producer’s bottom line.

Furthermore, the added value produced by ethanol plants is of definite benefit to the customer-owners of the organization and the local community benefits when farmers spend the money on goods and services.

Al-Corn Clean Fuel, a farmer-owned ethanol production cooperative located in Claremont, Minn., is one such example. Since its founding in 1994 with an initial membership base of 50, the cooperative now has approximately 470 members who recognize the value of diversifying their operation.

The cooperative was created when depressed corn prices drove local farmers to seek new opportunities to add value to their corn crop. Similar to other agricultural cooperatives, members of Al-Corn Clean Fuel invest financially but also agree to deliver a quantity of corn determined by their investment in the business. This “corn commitment” has been a key contributor to success of the cooperative.

For the past two decades, Al-Corn Clean Fuel’s model has allowed for development of a firm business foundation based on success, a strong cash position and investments that add value for members and their communities and resulted in competitive returns.

The Claremont plant was designed to produce 10 million gallons per year, which meant that our production equaled approximately 1 percent of the total U. S. ethanol volume going to market.  As our industry has grown and evolved, however, Al-Corn Clean Fuel has been an active participant in finding ways to increase domestic demand.

downloadNot only has Al-Corn Clean Fuel grown its capacity at the Claremont facility, it has added additional capacity via wise investments in other ethanol facilities. At present those outside investments are generating as much as 40 percent of the cooperative’s total net annual income.

In addition to the 17.5 million bushels of corn that are ground and 50 million gallons of ethanol that are produced annually, the cooperatives revenue stream for member-owners extends beyond the corn field via the marketing of co-products.

The Claremont plant produces 132,000 tons of high protein livestock feed, 12 million pounds of corn oil and 70,000 tons of beverage grade carbon dioxide. The majority of these products are consumed by refiners, livestock feeders, meat packers and biodiesel producers throughout Minnesota.

Al-Corn Clean Fuel continues to utilize the best available control technologies in order to reduce energy consumption and production costs while at the same time increasing efficiencies and reducing emissions.

In addition, the Claremont plant has reduced water consumption to less than 2.4 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol and was the first plant to achieve “zero liquid discharge.”  In addition, energy conservation efforts have reduced the plant’s energy use by more than 35 percent compared to the original plant design.

Al-Corn Clean Fuel continues to play an important role in the economic viability of agriculture and rural communities throughout the region.  The cooperative remains sound as it continues to successfully add value to the corn delivered by its member-owners, as well as seeking new and innovative ways to enhance revenue and reduce costs.

For additional information regarding Al-Corn Clean Fuel, please contact Randall Doyal at RDoyal@al-corn.com or visit al-corn.com.


The Minnesota Corn Growers Association is proud to have Al-Corn Clean Fuel as an Allied Industry Partner. Our Allied Industry Partners support the work being done by Minnesota’s corn organizations to identify and promote opportunities for corn farmers while improving quality of life. You’ll see Al-Corn Clean Fuel’s logo, and the logos of our other Allied Industry Partners, on publications like Corn Talk. We also provide an opportunity for our Allied Industry Partners to provide updates and information via MinnesotaCornerstone.com. Thank you for the support, Al-Corn Clean Fuel.

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Corn Growers offering conservation innovation grants

Discovery Farms MinnesotaIf you’re a Minnesota corn farmer with an idea on how to better manage nitrogen and protect water quality, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) would like to help you put that idea into practice.

MCGA, working in partnership with the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council (MCR&PC), is offering conservation innovation grants of up to $7,000 to any Minnesota corn farmer seeking to test or develop an innovative or best practice in the following areas:

  • Nitrate loss reduction
  • Improved nitrogen management practices for Minnesota soils
  • Maintaining or improving water quality, or
  • Innovative soil conservation practices.

“We know there are ideas out there and we want to hear them,” said Dr. Paul Meints, MCGA’s Research Director. “If you’ve been thinking about trying something different on your farm, but are hesitant because of limited resources, this grant program is for you.”

Every year Minnesota corn farmers support about $4 million in research efforts through respected institutions like the University of Minnesota to address water quality and nutrient management issues. The new Conservation Innovation grant program would enhance those efforts by providing an opportunity for individual farmers to showcase their own ideas and examine how they could be replicated on other area farms.

“We’re focused on farm-level implementation with these grants,” Meints said. “If something is effective on your farm, can we replicate it on other farms? What would be the costs to implement? These are a few of the question we’re hoping to answer through this program.”

The Corn Growers are also offering grants up to $5,000 for farmers to host a field day that showcases their ongoing nitrogen management or soil conservation practice. Field days would include other area farmers, local elected officials and local business leaders. Field days must be held between April 1 and Nov. 15, 2016.

The deadline to apply for grants is 3 p.m. on Feb. 15. Successful and non-successful applicants will be notified by March 15. For additional details about the program, including a complete application packet, click here. Or contact Dr. Paul Meints at (952) 460-3601 or pmeints@mncorn.org.

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What do crop farmers do during the off season?

Sam Peterson is a MCGA student Agvocate and attends the University of Minnesota. Sam also works on his family's farm near Northfield.

Sam Peterson is a MCGA student Agvocate and attends the University of Minnesota. Sam also works on his family’s farm near Northfield.

Written by MCGA student Agvocate Sam Peterson

Have you ever thought about what farmers do when they aren’t sitting in their tractors planting or harvesting their crops? It is a common misconception that farmers plant their crop in the spring, take it easy during the summer, harvest in the fall, and take a long vacation in the winter. Truth is, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Farmers are busy year-round exploring new ways to improve their farms, planning what to do for the next year, maintaining equipment, and checking crops during the summer.

During the entire year, farmers are always trying to improve and become more efficient. They do this to improve their bottom line as well as lessen their impact on the environment. Educating themselves about new cropping practices or equipment and consulting with other farmers is a great way to learn new things and improve. Every farmer wants to learn and understand their land better by analyzing data collected over the year. Technological advances in agriculture have allowed farmers to collect and understand data they compile as they move across the field using GPS and recording devices installed in tractors. Analyzing this data is a great way for them to compare, contrast, and improve.

Farmers are usually a futuristic type of people. They are always planning ahead and looking at what they are going to do in the coming years. Farmers often use the data they analyze to make decisions about the future. It is not uncommon for farmers to buy their inputs (such as fertilizer) for their crops 4-6 months in advance because it not only saves them money, but allows them to make decisions while information is fresh in their mind. Being futuristic is a good risk management tool as well because it allows farmers to make multiple plans of action and execute the one that makes the most sense when the time comes.

The thing people see farmers doing the most is driving their equipment. Well, those tractors, combines, planters, etc. are not cheap, nor do they run forever. Farmers spend a good amount of time in the off season servicing the equipment they take so much pride in having. Servicing equipment also ensures that they have a season without any issues concerning the equipment, such as breakdowns, which decrease efficiency. Just like most people get their oil changed in their car every few months, farmers service their tractors and implements every few months to ensure everything is in working order.

Crop farmers also want to ensure that their crops are growing well throughout the season. Farmers rely on their crop to support their farm so they are treated like a prized possession. Every field is being scouted and tended to throughout the growing season to ensure that it is

Sam Peterson

Sam Peterson

producing the highest quality crop possible. While scouting the field, farmers are surveying for multiple factors. Anything from moisture in the soil, to the little white spots that may be appearing on the stem of the plant are important to the soil. They look for indicators like these to do their best in making decisions to prevent damage to the crop.

All farmers may wish they could plant their crop, kick back and relax for the summer, harvest it, and then go on vacation for the whole winter but that is not the case. Farmers are trying to improve themselves all the time so they can make better decisions for the future. They are also trying to prevent anything from happening to their crops or equipment while they are painstakingly waiting for their plants to grow into healthy, mature crops that provide food, feed, fiber and fuel for a growing world population.

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MN Ag EXPO 2016 brings scientists and farmers together

MN Ag EXPO 2016Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Hundreds of Minnesota farmers make their way to Mankato every January for MN Ag EXPO because they know this is where they can stay ahead of the curve, and keep their edge in a very competitive business. MN Ag EXPO 2016 kicks off on Jan. 27 and runs through Jan. 28 at the Verizon Wireless Center.

Among the educational opportunities not to be missed: two dozen scientists and researchers can be found in the concourse of Verizon Center, ready to talk about the research they are undertaking, thanks to farmer-funded check-off funds. The scientists will set up poster displays midafternoon on Wednesday, Jan. 27, and be ready for chatting for several hours, and they will return again Thursday, Jan. 28, and be available until 4 p.m.

“I would encourage all of our farmers to interact with these scientists while they are at EXPO and find out what this research is all about,” said Dr, Paul Meints, research director for Minnesota Corn. “Our growers should step right up and ask them, ‘How does this matter to me down on my farm?’”

Meints reports Minnesota Corn’s research priorities break down into two basic categories, which are overseen by two teams of grower leaders from Minnesota’s corn organizations — the Production & Stewardship team and the Expanded Uses team.

For Production & Stewardship, the main focus is on nitrogen and nitrate loss reduction, nitrogen management and water quality.

“All of the research that we solicited really does stem from that focus,” Meints said. “We want to help our growers keep that nitrogen in the soil, and we are going to continue to improve water quality through continued research into best management practices.”

For example, Dr. Fabian Fernandez will discuss research aimed at understanding and assessing the available nitrogen in the soil, in order to help farmers add the precise amount of additional fertilizer needed to get maximum yield, without using excess nitrogen.

The Expanded Uses team directs check-off funds to a broader scope of research, all aimed at finding new markets for corn and its related value-added products. These can include livestock research, ethanol fuel, emissions research, and new products like bioplastics.

Dr. Ken Valentas  is conducting a research project that bridges both stewardship and expanded uses — he is looking into the use of a form of distillers grains as an ingredient in fertilizer formulations that could act as a ‘slow-release’ mechanism, or a means of holding the nutrient phosphorous in place.

“All of the researchers at EXPO are working on things that will have direct applicability to how growers operate,” Meints said. “So our farmers should stop and talk to them and ask, ‘How does this research relate to my agricultural practice? What is this outcome going to do for me as an active farmer?’”

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New MN Ag EXPO panels to cover agriculture policy and advocacy

Lynn Ketelsen

MN Ag EXPO 2016 features two new panel discussions led by a pair of the most recognizable names in Midwest farm broadcasting. On Thursday, Jan. 28 (that’s just a couple days away!), Lynn Ketelsen from the Linder Farm Network and Don Wick from Red River Farm Network will lead panel discussions titled “The Future of Ag Policy in Minnesota” and “Advocating for Agriculture.”

“The Future of Ag Policy in Minnesota” is set to feature former Minnesota speaker of the house Kurt Zellers and prominent Minnesota political analyst Blois Olson. With hot-button issues like agriculture water quality, property taxes and

Don Wick

transportation set to be a part of future legislative sessions, the panel will provide expert insight into what farmers can expect to come out of St. Paul and Washington from a policy perspective in the near future.

On the “Advocating for Agriculture” panel, a combination of farmer-leaders and outside experts will cover the importance of farmers telling their own story and provide tips on how to better connect with the non-farming public.

Remember the “I’m Farming and I Grow it” song that generated over 9 million YouTube views? It was co-created by Greg Peterson of the Peterson Farm Bros in Kansas. Greg will be on the panel to share his thoughts on what farmers can do to help others better understand modern agriculture. Other panel members include Iowa farmer and former president of the National

Greg Peterson

Corn Growers Association Pam Johnson and David Carnes, CEO of ArcStone, a full-service marketing, design and technology agency.

One thing we want to highlight about both panels: These will not be two hours of boring people sitting behind a table speaking to you in a monotone voice. Each panel will truly be an open and honest discussion — led by Ketelsen and Wick and featuring panelists who are interesting, insightful, passionate and entertaining.

MN Ag EXPO 2016 is Jan. 27-28 at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato. It’s free to attend and you can register on-site when you arrive. For more information, go to www.mnagexpo.com.

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