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Palmer Amaranth Found in Polk County

Palmer amaranth has long flowering spikes that are spiny. The plant can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds in a short time frame. Seeds mature within 10-12 days after pollination. Photo: MDA.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has positively identified the invasive weed Palmer amaranth in Polk County. The confirmation came after the MDA inspected a field being used for the disposal of agricultural screenings.

The MDA collected a sample of the screenings material and determined by genetic testing that it was contaminated with Palmer amaranth seed. The field was scouted, and MDA staff found several dead Palmer amaranth plants on the field’s edge remaining from last year, suggesting the plants had grown and matured.

The landowner is working with the department to eradicate any of the weeds moving forward. At this time, the MDA believes the issue is isolated to only one field. The field and the surrounding area will be a priority for MDA field scouting this summer.

Since it was first discovered in the state in 2016, Palmer amaranth has been found in ten Minnesota counties, including Polk County. Most of the sites have been successfully eradicated and the remaining are being closely monitored.

In Minnesota, Palmer amaranth is listed as a noxious weed and a prohibited weed seed. This means no Palmer amaranth is allowed in any seed offered for sale in Minnesota.

Palmer amaranth is resistant to multiple herbicides, can cause substantial yield losses, and greatly increase weed management costs in soybeans and corn.

MDA’s full press release on this topic can be found online, here. Find more information about Palmer amaranth on the MDA’s website, here.

U.S. Organic Sales Soar to New High

Driven by a swing to home cooking during the pandemic, U.S. organic sales soared to new highs in 2020, jumping by a record 12.4 percent to $61.9 billion. It marked the first time that total sales of organic food and non-food products have surpassed $60 billion. This growth rate is more than twice the 2019 pace of 5 percent, according to the 2021 Organic Industry Survey released Tuesday by the Organic Trade Association.

In almost every organic food category, demand jumped by near-record levels, propelling U.S. organic food sales in 2020 up a record 12.8 percent to a new high of $56.4 billion. In 2020, almost 6 percent of the food sold in the United States was certified organic.

The Covid-19 pandemic caused consumer dollars to shift almost overnight from restaurants and carry-out to groceries, with traditional staples and pantry and freezer items flying off the shelves.

Leading the way was fresh organic produce, with sales rising by nearly 11 percent in 2020. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables also jumped with frozen sales alone rising by more than 28 percent. Including frozen, canned, and dried products, total sales of organic fruit and vegetables in 2020 were $20.4 billion. More than 15 percent of the fruits and vegetables sold in this country now are organic.

Pantry stocking was overwhelmingly the main growth driver in 2020. Sales of organic flours and baked goods grew by 30 percent.

Consumers also turned to “meal support” products to help them in the kitchen. Sales of sauces and spices pushed the $2.4 billion condiments category to a growth rate of 31 percent, and organic spice sales jumped by 51 percent, more than triple the growth rate of 15 percent in 2019.

Meat, poultry & fish, the smallest of the organic categories at $1.7 billion, had the second highest growth rate of nearly 25 percent.

While the growth in organic food sales is not expected to continue at 2020’s fast rate, organic food sales are expected to stay on a strong growth path in 2021. It is anticipated that the grocery industry at large will get a lasting lift from the pandemic as many consumers continue to cook more at home.

“We’ve seen a great many changes during the pandemic, and some of them are here to stay,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “What’s come out of COVID is a renewed awareness of the importance of maintaining our health, and the important role of nutritious food. For more and more consumers, that means organic. We’ll be eating in restaurants again, but many of us will also be eating and cooking more at home. We’ll see more organic everywhere—in the stores and on our plates.”

This year’s 2021 Organic Industry Survey was conducted from January through March 2021. Nearly 200 companies participated. To purchase the full report, visit the Organic Trade Association website. OTA’s full press release on this topic can be found online here. For more information about organic certification, visit MCIA Organic Services.

Field Inspection Application Deadlines

Please note these dates to avoid late fees:

  • June 7: Small grains, corn, and sunflowers
  • June 7 or 3 weeks after planting (whichever is first): Soybean post-spray inspections
  • June 7: Soybean bloom inspections
  • July 15: Soybeans (pre-harvest inspection only)
  • Year of seeding: Perennials
  • 4 weeks prior to each cutting for noxious weed seed–free forage and mulch
  • Within 18 months of the year established for native grasses and forbs

Information packets for Field Inspection Applications will be mailed to enrolled MCIA members in May. Application forms and instructions are also available on the Client Resources page of the MCIA website. If you have any questions, please contact your field supervisor. (Field supervisor contact information is listed on the Staff page of the MCIA website.)

Fee Schedule Changes for 2021

MCIA members are advised of the following changes to program fee schedules, effective June 1, 2021:

  • Forage and Mulch: Shipping costs (USPS Priority, UPS, etc.) for certification tags
  • Native Seed: Field inspection fee revisions
  • QA and FI: Shipping costs (USPS Priority, UPS, FedEx) for QA tags, sample bags, and Sampling Report books
  • Seed Certification: Reporting fee revisions, shipping costs (USPS Priority, UPS, etc.) for certification tags, bulk certificates, sample bags, and Sampling Reports books
  • Sod: Added minimum fee on final fees

Fee schedules will be included in the field inspection application mailings sent to MCIA members. Current fee schedules specific to each program are also available on the Client Resources page of the MCIA website.

USDA Approves Minnesota’s Hemp Plan

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the state of Minnesota’s revised hemp production plan. The plan governs the production and regulation of hemp in Minnesota and needed federal approval as part of USDA’s U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. 

This will be the first year Minnesota’s program will be operating under a new, federally-approved state plan that governs production and regulation.

Some changes in the revised plan include:

  • A hemp crop must be tested no more than 30 days before harvest to ensure the plants fall below the 0.3% total tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level. This is an increase from the previous 15-day testing window.
  • Random sampling of fields will now be based on risk factors of the crop, allowing for more inspection flexibility.
  • Remediation is allowed if hemp plants exceed the 0.3% total THC threshold but test under 1% total THC.

A grower cannot be assessed more than one negligent violation in a year. The previous plan allowed an unlimited number of assessed violations. The penalty for violations is unchanged. Those with three negligent violations in five years will be ineligible for a license for five years.

A license from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is required for individuals and businesses to grow, process, research, or breed hemp in the state. Questions about the MDA’s Industrial Hemp Program should be sent to or 651-201-6600. MDA’s full press release on this topic can be found online here.

Mhonpaj Lee and Rodrigo Cala to Lead MOSES Organic Field Days

MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service) recently announced their Organic Field Day schedule for summer 2021. Two MCIA-certified organic operations, Mhonpaj’s Garden and Cala Farm Origenes, are among the participating farms. The purpose of Organic Field Days is to showcase successful organic farms and to offer ideas that others can put into practice.

On June 2, Mhonpaj Lee will be lead a virtual field day on the topic Season Extension at Mhonpaj’s Garden. The program will focus on connecting NRCS staff with the Hmong farming community; it will also include valuable tips for growers regarding high tunnel production.

On August 18, Rodrigo Cala will present on the topic Systems Approach to Organic Farming at Cala Farm Origenes, in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. He will share information about rotational grazing sheep, integrated vegetable systems, weed management, cover cropping, and perennial systems.

Visit the MOSES website to register for these events and for further details. Visit MCIA Organic Services for more information about organic certification.

April 30 Application Deadline for Hemp Growers and Processors

Those wanting to grow, process, breed, or research hemp in Minnesota in 2021 must apply for a license with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) by April 30.

The online application for growers and processors can be found on the MDA website at

Questions about the MDA’s Hemp Program should be sent to or call 651-201-6600. MDA’s full press release on this topic can be found online here.

Annual President’s Report

MCIA Perseveres and Prospers

At  every annual meeting of the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, the association’s president reports on MCIA’s activities over the past year and provides an assessment of the state of the organization. Following are highlights from Dr. Fawad Shah’s presentation to MCIA’s membership on January 13, 2021.

MCIA’s responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by developing and implementing a preparedness plan, adopted from CDC and MDH guidelines to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the MCIA staff.

MCIA is in good financial health. The fiscal year 2019–2020 was very successful, and MCIA investment funds also saw strong growth. Growth in Organic Services continued and yielded another profitable year. Bailey Webster was hired to fill an open organic certification specialist/inspector position, after Susan Stewart’s retirement. Carl Anfinson was hired in Foundation Seed Services to fill the open seed production coordinator position. Field inspection districts were realigned, increasing the number of districts from three to four. Tom Keskey and Dan Krenz were hired as field supervisors to fill district three and four positions.

MCIA established a relationship with West Central Technology to provide MCIA with IT support services. In April, MCIA launched a new website. The new website is secure, mobile-friendly, and improved site navigation.

MCIA has developed a 99% Non-GMO Corn Seed Program. It has been approved by AOSCA’s IP program standards.

MCIA continues to collaborate with the University of Minnesota (UMN) in protecting the intellectual property rights of university-developed crop varieties. MCIA joined with the Farmers Yield Initiative, UMN’s general counsel and the dean and director of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to address the issue of “brown bagging” and level the playing field for all seed producers and sellers.

MCIA’s Seed Laboratory successfully developed and implemented a Quality Management System and received accreditation by the USDA’s Accredited Seed Laboratory Program. Manager Chase Mowry became qualified as a Canadian Seed Grader. Now, seed tested and graded in the MCIA Seed Laboratory can be shipped into Canada without further testing. Thus, saving customers time and expense. Seed Technologist Sam Banks recently passed his Registered Seed Technologist exam.

MCIA’s priorities for fiscal year 2020–2021 include training of new staff, completion of the database project, adding new lab services, supporting the sale of PVP-protected varieties, and continued efforts to identify local, regional, and international opportunities to increase the visibility of MCIA.

Note: The full, official minutes of the 2021 MCIA Annual Meeting, which include the President’s Report, were published in the spring 2021 issue of the Minnesota Seed Grower.

2021 Minnesota Certified Seed Guide Published

2021 Minnesota Certified Seed Guide

The Minnesota Certified Seed Guide is a collaborative effort of MCIA and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES). This annual publication lists seed producers, includes MAES crop trial results, and features news and information relevant to the seed industry.

The 2021 edition was published in print over the winter by Minnesota Farm Guide. A digital version of the Minnesota Certified Seed Guide can be found here. If you’d like a printed copy, please request one from your MCIA field supervisor.

Seed Lab FYI: Days Required for Germ Tests

Barley* (no prechill): 7 days
Corn: 7 days
Oats* (no prechill): 10 days
Rye* (no prechill): 7 days
Ryegrass (no prechill): 14 days
Soybeans: 7 days
Wheat* (no prechill): 7 days
*A prechill is required for all 2020 crop year samples, which will add at least 5 days to the germination test.