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Alexandria Area High School's Meats Team sizzled during a regional FFA competition and is heading to state after taking first place. The team (front row, from left): Abby Stark and Kallista Roers. (Back row): Will Burgess, Cody Drewes and Tyler Burgess. (Contributed)

Alexandria meat team makes the cut

Five Alexandria Area High School students competed at a recent regional FFA meats evaluation contest, and all five are heading to the state competition this month.

Alexandria's meats team took first place in the eight-team regional March 28 in Morris, and every team member placed in the top 10, said advisor Andrew Steiner. Cody Drewes placed first, Tyler Burgess second, Will Burgess fourth, Abby Stark fifth and Kallista Roers sixth.

Also heading to state are the agriculture mechanics team and the fish and wildlife team. Each placed fourth on March 12 in Fargo.

Minnesota offers dairy improvement grant

Minnesota dairy farms that want to maintain their Grade A status or move from Grade B to Grade A status will get a shot at up to $10,000 in grants from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

The grants must be used for equipment, services or physical improvements to meet or maintain Grade A dairy farm and quality standards and do not require a matching investment from the farmer.

"Our dairy farmers have been struggling with low prices for years, and now they're challenged with surviving this tough winter weather," said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. "This new grant program should provide a significant boost to many dairies in the state."

The department has allocated $250,000 for the grant program and will award at least 25 grants.

Proposals are due at 4 p.m. on May 1. For more information and to apply, producers may visit the AGRI Dairy Farm Improvement Grant website.

Landowners sought to protect watershed

Landowners in southeastern Douglas County, including Nelson and Osakis, could be eligible for conservation easements through an effort being launched this year to protect the Sauk River.

Conservation easements can provide tax incentives or other compensation in exchange for landowners agreeing to limit activity on their land, such as keeping feedlots out. The easements remain in place even after the property changes hands.

A scenic river, the Sauk is home to a wide variety of wildlife. People fish and hunt along it and it also supplies drinking water. It's a state-designated water trail.

The Minnesota Land Trust is leading the effort, called Sauk River Watershed Habitat Protection and Restoration Program, along with multiple groups, including the Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District and the DNR. It is seeking landowners not just in Douglas, but in Todd, Pope, Stearns and Meeker counties as well.

Applications for the first round of the program are being accepted until Wednesday, May 1.

The project has been recommended for funding from by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council starting July 1, pending approval by the legislature.

For more information, contact Nick Bancks at 651-917-6282 or nbancks@mnland.org, or visit www.mnland.org/saukgrant.

MNDOT pays for corn, hay snow fences

Farmers in west-central Minnesota who are finalizing spring planting plans have a chance to join a Minnesota Department of Transportation program to use standing corn rows to control blowing and drifting snow on state and federal highways.

MnDOT pays farmers per acre to leave standing corn rows on selected state roads in areas that are eligible for the program. A typical standing corn row treatment is about a quarter-mile long and one acre in size, with 12 rows of corn left standing parallel with the highway. In the past, MnDOT compensation with land owners has ranged from $1,000-$2,000, depending on the severity of the blowing and drifting snow problem and average daily traffic counts in the area being protected.

"We want to work with farmers before spring planting to make sure they select seed varieties with insect and disease resistant traits and have stalks that will hold up well in the winter," said Dan Gullickson, MnDOT's snow control program coordinator.

Several farmers in District 4 in west-central Minnesota have already signed up, and their standing corn rows sections, hay bales and temporary snow fencing can be seen along Interstate 94 and other highways.

These "living snow fences" can be designed and constructed to fit into individual land use and farming operations. Ears of corn are allowed to be hand-picked by families, clubs, organizations and church groups.

For more information, contact Kohl Skalin at Kohl.Skalin@state.mn.us or 218-846-7943, or visit www.dot.state.mn.us/d4/snowfence/.