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USDA Reports Record Enrollment in Key Farm Safety-Net Programs 

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2020 – Producers signed a record 1.77 million contracts for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2019 crop year, which is more than 107 percent of the total contracts signed compared with a 5-year average. USDA also reminds producers that June 30 is the deadline to enroll in ARC and PLC for the 2020 crop year.

“Producers for several years have experienced low commodity prices, a volatile trade environment and catastrophic natural disasters,” said Richard Fordyce, Administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “Farmers looking to mitigate these risks recognize that ARC and PLC provide the financial protections they need to weather substantial drops in crop prices or revenues.”

Producers interested in enrolling for 2020 should contact their FSA county office. Producers must enroll by June 30 and make their one-time update to PLC payment yields by September 30. 

FSA attributes the significant participation in the 2019 crop year ARC and PLC programs to increased producer interest in the programs under the 2018 Farm Bill and to an increase in eligible farms because of the selling and buying of farms and new opportunities for beginning farmers and military veterans with farms having 10 or fewer base acres. Enrollment for 2019 ended March 16.

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. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

For more information on ARC and PLC, download the program fact sheet or the 2014-2018 farm bills comparison fact sheet. Online ARC and PLC election decision tools are available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc. To locate the nearest USDA Service Center, visit farmers.gov/service-center-locator.


USDA Service Centers Open for Business by Phone Appointment Only

The Murray County USDA Service Center will continue to be open for business by phone appointment only and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While our program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with our producers by phone, and using online tools whenever possible. 

USDA Service Centers are encouraging visitors to take precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.  All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Murray Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) are required to call to schedule a phone appointment.   

• Farm Service Agency: (507) 836-8567 extension 2

• Natural Resources Conservation Service: (507) 836-8933 extension 3; or 218-979-0773 

• Murray Soil and Water Conservation District: (507) 836-6990 extension 3

Employees may also be contacted by email at the following email address:

•mnslayton-fsa@one.usda.gov for FSA

• Cheryl Heard – Cheryl.heard@usda.gov for NRCS

• Allisa Wendland – Allisa.Wendland@usda.gov for NRCS

• Shelly Lewis—slewis@co.murray.mn.us for SWCD

• Craig Christensen—cchristensen@co.murray.mn.us for SWCD

•Aaron Crowley—acrowley@co.murray.mn.us for SWCD

Online services are available to customers with an eAuth account, which provides access to the farmers.gov portal, various FSA online services and the NRCS Conservation Client Gateway. Through the farmers.gov portal, producers can view USDA farm loan information and payments and view and track certain USDA program applications and payments. On the FSA website, customers with an eAuth account can enroll in certain programs and access maps and farm data through FSAfarm+. Online NRCS services are available to customers through the Conservation Client Gateway where customers can track payments, report completed practices, request conservation assistance, and electronically sign documents. Customers who do not already have an eAuth account can enroll at farmers.gov/sign-in. 

For the most current updates on available services and Service Center status visit farmers.gov/coronavirus. 


Girls State 2020 Canceled American Legion Auxiliary

American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State for 2020 has been cancelled because of the coronavirus.

We are so sorry for our 2 Girl State candidates, Anna Kolenko a student at MCC and Houa Yang a student at Westbrook Walnut Grove.

We know these girls are disappointed as are we in the Slayton American Legion Auxiliary. This is a terrific opportunity for girls to learn about the working of our government and meet other candidates from the state of Minnesota.

Thank you for all the support the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State program receives from  Murray County businesses and individuals.

Merry Hollis, Girl State Chairperson.


WIC is open and here to support families

WIC wants families to know that we are here for them.  The Southwest Health and Human Services (SWHHS) office in Murray County is open for current participants and new participants. 

To reach the SWHHS office in Murray County WIC program call 507-836-6144. Families can find the phone number for other WIC programs by calling 1-800-942-4030.

Due to social distancing, WIC has changed the way services are delivered. WIC participants and those interested in WIC should call their local WIC clinic to ask how they are providing services.

In 2019, WIC changed from a paper voucher to a card, similar to an EBT- style card. WIC participants can continue to use this WIC Card in stores.

We are also hearing of social media reports with inaccurate information about WIC. The best source of information about current WIC services is the Minnesota WIC website https://www.health.state.mn.us/people/wic/index.html and the Southwest Human Services website http://swmhhs.com/ 

WIC is a health and nutrition program and provides a variety of healthy foods! WIC staff can answer nutrition and breastfeeding questions, and refer to other resources.

WIC provides services to women who have recently had a baby or who are pregnant and to infants and children until their 5th birthday. WIC wants families to know that if they have had changes in income due to COVID19 or if they participate in Medical Assistance, SNAP, or other programs, they may be eligible. To learn more see the Minnesota WIC website or call 1-800-942-4030. 


Transitioning Expiring CRP Land to Beginning, Veteran or Underserved Farmers and Ranchers

CRP contract holders are encouraged to transition their Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to beginning, veteran or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers through the Transition Incentives Program (TIP). TIP provides annual rental payments to the landowner or operator for up to two additional years after the CRP contract expires, provided the transition is not to a family member. 

Enrollment in TIP is on a con¬tinuous basis through 2023 or until the new statutory limit of $50 million under the 2018 Farm Bill is reached. 

CRP contract holders no longer need to be a retired or retiring owner or operator to transition their land. TIP participants must agree to sell, have a contract to sell, or agree to lease long term (at least five years) land enrolled in an expiring CRP contract to a beginning, veteran, or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher who is not a family member. 

Beginning, veteran or social disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and CRP participants may enroll in TIP beginning two years before the expiration date of the CRP contract. For example, if a CRP contract is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2022, the land may be offered for en¬rollment in TIP from October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2022. The TIP application must be submitted prior to completing the lease or sale of the affected lands.

New landowners or renters that return the land to production must use sustainable grazing or farming methods.

For more information on TIP, visit https://www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation.


Apply for Free to Minnesota West until June 1, 2020 

Minnesota West Community & Technical College will offer free applications through June 1, 2020. Students applying to Minnesota West with start dates for summer term 2020 or fall semester 2020 will have their application fee waived at the time that they apply through June 1, 2020 

To apply at Minnesota West Community & Technical College visit www.mnwest.edu/get-started/apply.

There are over 60 online courses available during summer term and over 60 majors & technical programs to choose from at Minnesota West.

For more information contact us at www.mnwest.edu or 800-658-2330.


Volunteering During COVID-19

With the events surrounding COVID-19, stay at home order from Governor Walz and unemployment uncertainties, we have heard a lot about volunteering. Pre-pandemic, the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging (MNRAAA) was part of a coalition in the State of Minnesota to bring changes to assist volunteer drivers (volunteerdrivermn.org) and how these drivers are defined by current state law. This movement has taken a back seat as we come together to combat this virus. Volunteering now takes on a new meaning, has a new look and feels different.

Historically when you think of volunteering, you may think of a church bake sale, making cookies for a cookie walk or sitting at a booth for an organization. Now volunteering takes on a whole new purpose. Organizations throughout Minnesota are looking for volunteers to help at-risk groups, such as older adults to deliver groceries and meals (meals on wheels, frozen meals, shelf-stable meals, etc.), pick up medications or simply provide telephone check-ins on individuals. You can find these organizations through news outlets, social media, non-profits and at www.helpolderadultsmn.org.

Volunteering does not have to occur through an organization; there are things you can do yourself to help your neighbors, friends and family. You can pick up mail, offer to walk a pet if someone does not feel well, check in with people via telephone or prepare meals for someone as well.

There are many ways to volunteer and give back if you find yourself with cabin fever, now may be a time to look at helping!


As The Coronavirus Spreads, Farmers Still Fight Other Livestock Viruses

The coronavirus has impacted enormous numbers of people, but the disease is suspected to have started in animals.

While the specific animal source hasn’t been identified, the virus originated at a wet market – where both dead and live animals are sold – in Wuhan, China. Such outdoor markets with insufficient hygiene practices increase the risk of viruses being transmitted from animals to humans. 

Unsanitary settings also have been the origin of other viruses, such as Zika and West Nile, that have long been infecting livestock across America – and, like the coronavirus, can be transmitted to humans. David Anderson (www.horsedrinker.com), President and CEO of Bar-Bar-A, a company that produces automatic livestock drinkers, says stagnant water – which collects bacteria and where mosquitoes gather and become virus carriers – is a big source of the problem.

“When you have standing water out in the fields from rain or irrigation, stagnant drinking troughs in the heat, or any places livestock such as horses or cattle drink, it attracts mosquitoes,” Anderson says. “Algae-infested ponds are another. The more mosquitoes, the more risk of contracting a virus.

“What we don’t ever want to see in regard to these livestock viruses is the hysteria we’re seeing about the coronavirus because of a general lack of knowledge about it. With Zika and West Nile, we need to educate the public on how horses and other livestock attract the viruses, which people can get, too, and what the preventive measures are that we can take.”

Anderson suggests the following ways to reduce the risks of people, pets and livestock getting viruses such as the West Nile and Zika:

Reduce the amount of standing water. This is where mosquitoes breed, but there are many places they gather besides ponds, puddles, and drinking troughs. “Many homes and yards are sitting ducks for mosquitoes and the disease they carry,” Anderson says. “Dispose of cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar water-holding containers. Empty standing water from discarded tires. Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if the leaves tend to pile up and plug up the drains. Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use. Don’t allow water to stagnate in birdbaths or wading pools. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. Be aware that mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on swimming pool covers.”

Avoid sharing equipment. “Animals often gather in packs to drink and eat, but to decrease exposure or chances of a virus spreading, avoid letting them share feed tubs and water troughs or buckets in herds,” Anderson says. “This also includes being careful not to share things like pitchforks, halters, and brushes.”

Practice good landscaping. “Very weedy and shallow waterways that receive a good amount of excess runoff from fertilizers or manure can be havens for mosquitoes,” Anderson says. “Prevent such runoff through proper drainage, minimal fertilizer use, and buffer zones between open fields and wetlands. Control the weeds and keep old leaves from piling up.”

“It’s impossible for agriculture to occur without water, and the same is true of mosquitoes,” Anderson says. “Any standing body of water represents the perfect spawning ground for mosquitoes, so you have to know how to reduce them to reduce your animals’ risk – and your risk – of a serious virus.”


Minnwest Bank Launches New Financial Education Program for High School Students at Fulda Secondary   

Slayton, MN- Minnwest Bank today announced the launch of a Financial Literacy program (FinLit), a new personal finance education program for students in grades nine to 12. The course has been made available through Minnwest Bank’s relationship with the nation’s leading social impact education innovator, EVERFI, Inc.     

FinLit teaches high school students how to make smart financial choices that promote financial well-being over their lifetime. The program features an interactive learning platform designed specifically to translate complex financial concepts like understanding a pay stub or completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form and introduces the basic financial literacy skills needed as high-school students transition into adulthood. According to EVERFI, 53 percent of Gen Z students rank money management as the most daunting challenge they face today.      

“Minnwest Bank is excited to announce the launch of our Financial Literacy program, which is a major initiative to educate our youth across our communities on financial literacy”, said Neal Everson, Market President for Minnwest Bank in Slayton.

Through a series of interactive lessons, FinLit helps students develop actionable strategies for managing their finances. The robust course library covers a number of topic areas including income and employment, budgeting, credit and debit cards, and financing higher education. The seven module course immerses students in real-life financial scenarios and allows them to move at their own pace through the lessons, providing bite-sized instructional animations that make the topics approachable and relatable.       

“Understanding your finances and making sound financial decisions is key to a strong future, but  many people don’t know where to turn to get the information they need in a way that is  age-appropriate and easily understandable,” said EVERFI Co-Founder and President of Financial  Education, Ray Martinez. “By laying the foundation for financial literacy at a young age, students will be prepared with the skills needed to enter into the new economy and make for a smooth transition into adulthood.”    

The platform offers detailed data and reporting by allowing teachers to uniquely track the progress and performance of every student and see real-time data on student performance, while the technology aggregates crucial data on hours of learning completed and knowledge gains.  

To learn more about the program, visit   https://everfi.com/partners/k-12-educators/ 


Tiffany Barnard joins Southwest Initiative Foundation as new philanthropy manager

HUTCHINSON, Minn.— Tiffany Barnard has joined Southwest Initiative Foundation’s (SWIF) staff to fill the new role of philanthropy manager. Barnard will manage the foundation’s daily philanthropy work, including regional fundraising to meet organizational needs and planned giving.

“I believe in working for the communities that raised me. I had the best childhood because I lived in a such a vibrant community,” said Barnard, who grew up in Hutchinson. “There are many ways one can advocate for their region and I am excited to be a part of team that works hard to bring opportunity to all.”

Barnard holds a degree in psychology from the College of Saint Benedict. After college, she spent two years living and working abroad in Guatemala. She has experience in sales and as an entrepreneur: She and her husband, Blake, are the former owners of Zellas restaurant in downtown Hutchinson, which they founded. The couple has three children.

An active volunteer in the community, Barnard serves on the Hutchinson School Board, the local Early Childhood Family Education Advisory Committee and the City of Hutchinson’s Charter Commission as well as the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Education Board.

“Tiff has an incredible energy and passion for supporting our kids and families in southwest Minnesota. It’s a great match for this work of engaging the generous people, businesses and organizations that care about this region and our mission,” said SWIF Vice President of Philanthropy Liz Cheney.


Good News

By: John Stenen

Anger, hatred, bitterness, resentment, un-forgiveness, these can all be killers. Medical science has known for a long time that these negative emotions can have a devastating affect on our physical health and well-being. A woman breaks out in a rash all over her body and it does not respond to medication; her doctor finds out that she ‘hates’ her neighbor and advises her to forgive the person next door. Eventually she does and her health begins to improve.

A man gets into a legal dispute with his sister over their father’s will. For months and months the anger and hatred towards his sister grows, then, she wins in the court. He is furious. He was strong and healthy, but now he has high blood pressure, kidney troubles, heart troubles; these eventually bring him to an early death. His doctor said, “It seems obvious that he died from bodily injuries wrought by powerful emotions.” Even with ulcers, how often have we heard that its cause is not what we are eating, but rather, what is eating us.

Of course not all illness comes to us because of negative emotions towards others, but with so much ‘lack of love’ in the world today as we bite and devour one another, it would be worth our while to consider how it is with our ‘emotional life.’ Is our life filled with the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:22-24), or, with many of those ungodly negative emotions? Psalm 139: 23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;  And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way of everlasting.”

The apostle Paul informs us in 1 Cor. 11: concerning ‘communion’ that because many in the Church do not examine themselves, (judge themselves), and repent of their sin, and they receive communion as if nothing is wrong, this leads to weakness, sickness, and even an early death.

Life is too short, compared to eternity, to live our lives with all the various negative emotions. Wouldn’t it be great if we all lived with a much higher degree of God’s love, enjoying peace and unity with all those around us? God bless.