Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Good Stuff

Most of us have never been homeless and can’t imagine the mountains these people have to climb to get “back on their feet”. Think about this. You are homeless, but you are able to work and you get a job. When you get your paycheck and go to the local supermarket to cash the check – they charge you $15 because it is a third party check.

Minnesota Valley Action Council to the rescue. The agency has received a $30,000 donation from an anonymous donor. With those funds, the agency has helped folks as described above by working with a local bank to allow people to set up bank accounts and start to climb that mountain. end

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Higher Priced Corn does not equate with higher priced meat

Even though we are paying more for corn today, it has little effect on the price of meat to the consumer. I can share a true picture of how the price of corn affects the cost of meat for the consumer. We raise hogs and sell them at a weight of 265 pounds. A 265 pound live weight hog will produce about 200 pounds after slaughter. Since hogs are good converters of feed to meat, (2.5 pounds of feed to create 1 pound of meat); this hog ate 662.5 pounds of feed. The key word here is feed. One must remember that the feed ration for hogs is more than corn. The ration we use is 65% corn. (The ration also contains DDG's, but I am not including this in the analysis.) We used 431 pounds of corn ((.65 X 662.5= 431 pounds) to grow the 265 pound hog. A bushel of corn weighs 56 pounds so we used 7.7 bushels of corn to grow the hog.

Historically, corn has been priced under $2.00 per bushel. For this analysis, I will take the price we paid for corn in August 2006. At that time it was $1.80 per bushel. So last August, it cost us $13.86 to raise the hog and the value of the corn in a pound of carcass was 7 cents. On May 4, the corn price was $3.43 per bushel putting our new cost at $26.41 and the value of corn in a pound of carcass would be 13 cents.

If the cost increase to raise a hog created by the higher corn price is carried forward to the consumer, the increase in the price of pork would be 6 cents a pound or 1.5 cents per four ounce serving. This is a big if. The retail markets usually do not react in a rational way. In fact, history tells us, the prices of corn and the price of retail meat have been decoupled. Looking at the years 2001-2005 shows a couple of years when the price of corn went down and the price of beef and pork went up.

Renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel are all the buzz and have been "sweetheart subjects" of the print media, newscasts, and forums. No politician worth their salt at any level of government has made a speech that did not include a reference to ethanol and biodiesel. As with all new technologies, after the first excitement, the nay sayers come out of the woodwork. The latest news flashes have been in reference to a perception that using farm commodities for fuel will deprive people of a food source and furthermore the food that is available will be subject to a huge price increase. These perceptions are a world apart from the reality of the situation.

There will be no shortage of corn. According to the USDA the U.S. corn farmers have continually increased corn production from 1988 to now. In 2005, there was a 2 million bushel surplus after all demands were met. Farmers have produced more corn from fewer acres. They have done this by increasing yields.

While use of corn for ethanol has increased, the traditional uses for corn (beef, poultry, swine, and dairy feed) as well as other uses have remained static for the past decade. Field corn used for human consumption is a very, very small fraction of the total corn crop. The plain truth is that the overwhelming majority of corn produced in the United States, including the corn that is exported is fed to livestock, not to humans. The end of the story is that the marketplace will even out once the ethanol industry becomes more stabilized. end

Friday, May 18, 2007

Something's fishy!

This morning Governor Tim Pawlenty held is usual Friday morning radio program. He announced at the beginning of the program that pending legislation and issues would not be discussed. As the program progressed, there were pauses for a commercial. Guess what? The first commercial was sponsored by the Minnesota Taxpayer's Association and it lauded the governor for halting the gas tax increase with his veto. The odds of this happening accidentally are nil. I wonder if the Governor even helped pay for the add through financial support for the group. end

Notes from a visit with the County Assessor

The Nicollet County Board of Commissioners had the opportunity to be briefed by our county assessor, Doreen Pehrson and ALL of her staff this week. Here are of a few of the notes I took.
In a year or two the county will have all parcels of property on the Vanguard and then information will be available on line. For example, if someone wanted to obtain information on every house that sold between $100,000 and $125,000 in a certain locality, they could do that. There will be the ability to search by parcel number, address, or price range.There may even be a map available so properties could be accessed with a point and click arrangement.
Valuations for building sites continue to increase. In the western part of the county it is typical to pay between $110,000 to $120,000 for a 10 acre bare piece of ground that is buildable.
The assessor’s office appraises 15,000 parcels once a year.The valuation is not a determinate of taxes. The valuation only determines what portion of the tax pie you will pay. end

Patients' Memorial Service - May 29

On May 29 a Service of remembrance will be held at 1:00 p.m. at the Resurrection Cemetery in St. Peter. The service will memorialize all of those who have been “forgotten”. Many folks who were institutionalized or otherwise challenged with mental health issues have passed away with little or no recognition of their time spent on this earth.

Matthew 5:11 “God will bless you when people insult you, mistreat you, and tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me. Be happy and excited! You will have a great reward in heaven. People did these same things to the prophets who lived long ago.”

Refreshments will be served following the service at the Power Up Clubhouse at 123 S. Minnesota Avenue, St. Peter, Minnesota. end

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Part of the observation of Mental Health Month was an Open House at the Power Up Clubhouse in St. Peter. The clubhouse is located at 123 S. Minnesota Avenue in St. Peter and offers a variety of activities. In fact in 2006 3,237 people used the clubhouse and it was open 246 days. The average attendance was almost 13 people each day.
It is obvious that the programming is excellent and there is a good combination of in-house activities as well as out and about activities. They print a newsletter and there are many volunteers who take part in the programs.
The Power Up Clubhouse is a good option for people with mental health issues to drop-in and to fit-in. They offer a safe and comfortable environment which is stigma-free. The goal is to be a resource center for all who need to us it. end

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

County Library Board

The Nicollet County Commissioners made the decision to create a county library board at our last meeting in April. We are now seeking county citizens who are interested in serving on this newly created board. The purpose of the library board will be to develop and enhance library services for the citizens of Nicollet County.

The Nicollet County Board of Commissioners will select members of this library board from those citizens who apply and fill out an application. The plan is to have the board in place by July 1,2007. Participants will be eligible for a small per diem payment and reimbursement of travel expenses.

If you are interested in serving on the Nicollet County Library Board, please call Robert Podhradsky, Nicollet County Administrator by Friday, May 25. An application form will be mailed. For further information, call 507-931-6800. end

Sentence to Serve to the Rescue

We had some pretty strong wind gusts hit our area on Sunday, May 6. North Mankato got hit pretty hard with big branches and trees taken down in the storm. It happened that Kevin Stolt and the Nicollet County Sentence to Serve crew were working at the North Mankato Recycling Center. They immediately switched gears and began to help city crews picking up, cutting up and clearing debris. Who says no one makes house calls and you can’t get any help on the weekend?

Friday, May 04, 2007


As the governor and legislators play political games, our local roads are falling apart. Nicollet County Highway Engineer, Mike Wagner updated the board yesterday about road needs and his deep concern for the condition of our county roads. The money is not coming from the proper funding source i.e. a gas tax. The county is looking at levying $1,000,000 (property tax dollars) for road funding in 2008. In the past the county has used the levy as well as bonding to pay for roads. This is not good public policy.

No New Money
We have not had an increase in the gas tax since 1988. This is the source of funding for local roads i.e. county, city, and township. Yes, each of these units of government has an obligation to spend some of their own levy dollars for roads. And that is exactly what we have been forced to do. Is this fair? Absolutely not! The property tax should not have to shoulder the whole burden for roads. Many people other than our own residents use the roads. A good example of this is Nicollet County number 5 or the Fort Road. We have truckers hauling rock from Morton on this road and we have many people driving west to Jackpot Casino using the road. And there are many other examples. The basic point is that the people who use the road should have a bigger responsibility to pay for it and that can only be done through a gas tax.

Rising Costs The funding has stayed flat since 1988. But the expenses have increased. Everything costs much more now: labor, fuel, product, right of way purchases etc. You simply can’t build a road or even maintain it with less and less resources. When resurfacing is put off, a stopgap measure is pavement patching. This is folly! The process and materials are very expensive and it is not the answer. It only delays the inevitable. And the inevitable will be much more expensive when and if it is done!

Heavier Loads – More Trips Nicollet County and all of southern Minnesota is experiencing a renaissance of sorts in agriculture. Today’s farming is “Not Your Father’s Farming”. Five-axle semi-tractor trailers are the standard farm equipment. Along with these are grain wagons, large tractors, combines, and heavy tillage equipment. In Minnesota, half of all privately registered heavy commercial vehicles are owned by farm or agriculture-related businesses.

Personal Example
In the past (like ten years ago) we used a small farm truck to haul 25 hogs four miles to the station (6625 pounds excluding the truck weight). Today, a semi trailer hauling 185 hogs (49,025 excluding truck weight) hauls them to Austin, Minnesota. This is repeated all over southern Minnesota. Hog production here has tripled since 1970.

Ethanol Growth
Minnesota’s ethanol industry is the third largest in the nation. In Southern Minnesota, about one third of the corn produced will flow to the ethanol plants. This corn will move mostly on local roads as a typical procurement area is within a thirty-mile radius of the plant. And what goes in must come out. Some of the finished product will move by truck, adding more traffic and use of roads. Also the distiller’s grain by-product must be transported to the feedlots.

2007 needs with 1988 funds
This increased activity means many more vehicles making more trips on the same old worn out roads. And it means the road authorities are challenged to maintain and improve today’s road activity with 1988 funding. It just can’t be done. The breaking point is near. We need a 10 cent gas tax increase. The money does not go very far. Consider that even a three cent increase will only give Nicollet County $150,000.

Political Hacks or Statesmen?
The Governor and the legislators need to stop looking to the next election and start looking at the needs of the citizens. We need a gas tax to fund roads and keep Minnesota’s economy rolling. end