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Financial Benchmarking Scholarships Available to Organic Specialty Growers

Photo: Pixabay.

The University of Minnesota is extending their Organic Farm Financial Benchmarking in the Upper Midwest project to specialty growers. Scholarships are now available to organic fruit and vegetable growers.

Here is some background information on the project and how it may benefit organic growers.

Organic Farm Financial Benchmarking in the Upper Midwest is an integrated regional grant project, led by University of Minnesota Extension. The project focuses on a multi-year farm business management benchmark analysis of organic farms in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. Benchmarking provides a summary of production and financial performance measures, allowing producers to evaluate their individual performance to a cohort with similar farm characteristics. Conventional farming operations have numerous resources to complete benchmark analysis, while there are limited resources available to organic producers. Benchmark analysis allows producers to examine how to remain competitive with market fluctuations.

Specifically, this project aims to:
• collect data on farm production and financial performance measures for certified organic row crop, forage, and dairy farms to investigate the financial performance of certified organic farms in the Upper Midwest;
• develop benchmark reports for certified organic row crops (corn, soybeans, and wheat), forage (hay and corn silage), and dairy farms; and
• develop and deliver Extension programming to address the educational needs of organic producers and the agricultural professionals that advise them.

This project has the long-term goal of enhancing the economic viability of organic row crop and dairy farms by providing comprehensive financial benchmark analysis to improve the efficiency of organic farm management.

Learn more about the organic benchmarking cost share program at or by contacting Associate Professor Joleen Hadrich ( or Research Fellow Gigi DiGiacomo ( at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Applied Economics.

A report from the first year of the organic benchmarking project, Upper Midwest Organic Farm Business Management 2020 Annual Report, is available online through the University of Minnesota. The report details whole farm and enterprise returns as well as traditional financial indicators for organic dairy and row crop producers in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The report, including enterprise results for organic dairy, soybeans, corn, corn silage, alfalfa hay and haylage, is available at

UMN Publishes 2021 Variety Trial Results

The University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) have published the 2021 Minnesota Field Crop Trials.

Visit to see variety trials for 10 different Minnesota crops.

To go directly to the trials for specific crops, follow these links:

Test Before Conditioning

Given the extreme growing conditions in 2021, seed producers should consider a preliminary germination test before conditioning.

An MCIA Seed Laboratory test will help assess seed quality and identify potential problem lots.

If you have questions or need sample bags or sampling reports, please contact MCIA.

2022 Directory Published

MCIA has published the 2022 edition of our annual Directory.

The Directory contains listings of agronomic crop, native, and organic seed; certified forage and mulch; quality assured seed and sod; approved seed conditioning and bulk seed handling facilities; and producer contacts. As well, the Directory provides information regarding MCIA’s many services and programs.

To view the digital edition of MCIA’s 2022 Directory, click here.

Sustainable Agriculture Grant Funding Available

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) anticipates awarding up to $250,000 to demonstrate and publicize the energy efficiency, environmental benefit, or profitability of sustainable agricultural techniques or systems, from production through marketing.

The Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Program’s Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant program will accept applications through 4 p.m. on Thursday, December 9, 2021.

Applicants may request up to $50,000 per project. The first $25,000 does not need to be matched by the applicants. For requests between $25,000 and $50,000, applicants must provide a dollar-for-dollar match on the amount above $25,000.

Funding will be awarded in 2022. Projects must last two to three years and grantees must be willing to share what they learn with others.

Projects are published annually in the MDA’s Greenbook, which provides a summary of each project along with results, management tips, locations of previous projects, and other resources.

Minnesota farmers, educational institutions, individuals at educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply. Applicants must be Minnesota residents, and projects must take place on Minnesota farms.

Proposals are required to be submitted through MDA’s online application system.

For more information, visit the AGRI Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant webpage. Read MDA’s full press release on this topic here.

Applications Open for Minnesota’s 2022 Industrial Hemp Program

Image by Niksy from Pixabay.

Online applications are now open for anyone wishing to grow or process hemp in Minnesota in 2022. A license from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is required for individuals and businesses.

Applications must be submitted by April 30, 2022, and a license is good for the 2022 calendar year.

The application can be found on the MDA website. Along with the online form, first-time applicants need to submit fingerprints and pass a criminal background check.

There are several changes to the 2022 program. They include:

  • The tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) testing fee per grower sample has been reduced from $125 to $100 each.
  • Previously, growers were not invoiced for the cost of the first sample; however, fees now will be charged for each sample collected.
  • The MDA will begin inspecting processor locations. This was not done in the past.
  • The processor license fee remains at $250, but each processing location will cost $250. Therefore, the minimum cost of a processing license will be $500.

The fee changes bring Minnesota into better alignment with other states and will help adequately fund the MDA’s Hemp Program.

While the deadline to apply or renew is April 30, 2022, those actively growing hemp plants indoors past December 31, 2021, must renew their license before expiration at the end of the year. Questions about the MDA’s Industrial Hemp Program should be sent to or 651-201-6600. Read MDA’s full press release on this topic here.

State Fair Certified Seed Champions Announced

Champion Utility Certified Seed. Minnesota State Fair, 2021.

Congratulations to the following MCIA members whose certified seed was awarded champion status at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair’s farm crops competition! Exhibited seed was field and laboratory inspected and passed and was judged on the basis of MCIA-approved seed laboratory tests.

Results were published by the Minnesota State Fair on September 7. The winners:

Barley: Robust
Russ Peterson, Grove City

Grass Seed: Fiesta perennial ryegrass
Norfarm Seed, Roseau

Oats: Deon
Jim Falk, Murdock

Soybean: MN1012SP
Andrew Falk, Murdock

Wheat: MN-Washburn
Larry Riopelle, Argyle

Complete results of the Farm Crops competition are available on the Minnesota State Fair website, here.

Connie McDowell Joins Seed Lab Staff

Lab Technician Connie McDowell

Minnesota Crop Improvement Association welcomes Connie McDowell to our staff! Connie started her work with the MCIA Seed Laboratory as a lab technician in August.

Connie graduated from Kansas State University earlier this year with a B.S. in agronomy. She interned at the Kansas Crop Improvement Association (KCIA), where she performed field inspections, primarily for wheat seed, and conducted various seed testing functions at the KCIA Seed Lab.

Connie also worked at the agronomy department library at K-State and contributed to the student lab manual for the AGRON 305 – Soils class.

Trailer for Sale

We’re selling our 1978 Redi Haul 8 x 16-foot gooseneck trailer! It’s in good condition and includes sides and loading ramp. Asking price: $2000 or best offer.

Specifications: Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) for both front and rear: 7,500 lb. Gross coupler weight rating: 30,000 lb. Gross vehicle weight rating: 17,250 lb.

Ready to do some hauling? Please contact Roger Wippler at MCIA, 612-625-7766, for more information.

Organic Cost Share Application Period Open

The USDA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP) is again offering rebates for certification expenses to eligible organic producers and handlers.

To qualify, applicants must be certified organic by a USDA-accredited certifying agency; by MCIA, for example. Operations that received certification (or had ongoing certification) between October 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021, are eligible for reimbursement of up to 50 percent of certification-related expenses. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) administers the program in Minnesota and has already mailed application packets to all certified organic operations in the state.

The maximum rebate available is $500 per category (crop, livestock, processing/handling, wild harvest). The MDA also offers a similar cost share program for operations transitioning to organic. In Minnesota, producers and handlers may apply for cost share assistance through the MDA, here. In Wisconsin, apply to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, here. Organic operations that are certified by MCIA and that are located in other states, should apply through their local Farm Service Agency (FSA).

“The yearly cost of certification can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars,” MDA Assistant Commissioner Patrice Bailey said. “This program provides some relief and goes a long way to make organic certification more affordable.” The Organic Certification Cost Share Program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.

2022 MCIA Annual Meeting • January 12, 2022 • Virtual Event
2022 MCIA Annual Meeting