Extension Information


24 Extension Office Closed, 12:00 p.m., Extension Office, Elkader

25 Extension Office Closed, Elkader

26 Extension Office Closed, Elkader

30 4-H Club Officer Training, 6:30 p.m., FreedomBank, Elkader

30 4-H County Council Meeting, 8:00 p.m., FreedomBank, Elkader

Statewide Commercial Manure Applicator Training is January 6th

Applicators should contact the Clayton County Extension & Outreach office to register
in Elkader. Commercial manure applicators should plan to attend the Commercial Manure Applicator training program scheduled for January 6, 2015, from 9 a.m. to noon. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), will conduct the required three-hour training workshop. There is no fee to attend the workshop, but commercial applicators must register by December 30 by contacting the Clayton County Extension
office at 563-245-1451.

Commercial manure applicators needing to recertify and those wanting to certify for the first time should attend. All currently certified commercial manure applicator licenses will expire on March 1, 2015. The program, which meets the requirement for three hours of annual training, will cover applicator rules, water quality issues, manure sampling and testing, and case studies.
Those wanting to renew must complete training requirements and submit forms and fees to the
DNR prior to March 1 to avoid paying late fees. The law requires all commercial manure applicators to attend three hours of training annually to meet certification requirements. Businesses that primarily truck or haul manure of any type or from any source are also required to meet certification requirements.

Commercial applicators who cannot attend the workshop will need to contact the Clayton County Extension Office to view a reshow.
Applicators requesting to view the reshow training materials must schedule an appointment and will be charged a fee of $10 per person. The fee does not apply to the January 6 workshop or scheduled repeat showing dates.

Anyone not able to attend training should schedule an appointment with their DNR field office to take the certification exam. In addition to scheduling an appointment to take the exam, applicators must bring a pencil, photo ID, and a calculator.

Commercial manure applicators hauling, handling or land-applying primarily dry or solid manure are encouraged to attend the dry manure applicator workshops to be held February 2015. Dates and locations are listed at the Iowa Manure Management Action Group website at http://www.agronext.iastate.edu/immag/homepage.html.

For more information about the commercial applicator program contact the Clayton County Extension office at 563-245-1451 or access a list of the training locations at: http://www.agronext.iastate.edu/immag/certification/macprogrampostcard.pdf


New ISU Extension and Outreach Program Creates One-Stop Shopping for Financial Analysis

In the wake of the recent financial crisis and economic slowdown, understanding their financial condition is more important than ever for Iowa local governments, particularly in rural communities. Given Iowa’s strong agricultural sector, financially sustainable rural communities are vital to the state economy.

A combination of factors such as aging infrastructure, resistance to additional taxation, depopulation and lower population density are pushing small local government budgets to their limits.

At the same time, the flow of resources from federal and state to local governments also has declined, increasing the fiscal stress on local governments and forcing them to find solutions to address revenue shortfalls. This situation has been further exacerbated by the increased demand for services at the city level, especially in the context of changing demographics.

Finally, the recent change in Iowa’s property tax law is already affecting cities across the state and has added an important dimension to the issue.

As a result, local governments resort to cutting services, freezing hiring, laying off employees and outsourcing services to maintain their financial viability.

Iowa Government Finance Initiative

To help city and county governments more easily access analyses of their financial situation, the Community and Economic Development program at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach launched the Iowa Government Finance Initiative. This program is designed to provide local governments with a wide range of service products using local finance, economic and demographic data, all available from one website.

IGFI is part of a larger project funded by the ISU Vice President for Extension and Outreach Initiative that addresses data needs of local governments, community leaders and extension specialists in Iowa. IGFI will provide local governments an alternative perspective about their financial performance. In addition to city governments, all Iowans will be able to access the information and understand their respective communities’ financial condition.

Four Services Available

There are four unique services beneath the IGFI umbrella. The first is a free annual fiscal conditions report for cities in Iowa that will be published every spring using historical annual financial data. The motivation behind the report is to give cities a snapshot of their fiscal condition using a set of economic, demographic, revenue and expenditure indicators. The reports for Iowa’s 946 cities will be in a standardized format, making it easier for cities to assess their own financial performance and compare themselves with peer cities.

For Fiscal Year 2013 reports, ISU Extension and Outreach has collected an additional four years of Annual Financial Reports from 67 volunteer cities. Cities not among these 67 are encouraged to submit their 2009–14 AFRs in spreadsheet format on the IGFI website (http://igfi.extension.iastate.edu/). The reports for FY 2014 are expected to be released in late spring 2015.

The second IGFI product is an extension of the base reports. The analyses can be extended to two additional levels upon request from a city. For the first of the advanced analysis levels, ISU Extension and Outreach will partner with a city to use additional indicators as well as select a peer city to provide a more comprehensive fiscal condition report. The second advanced custom level will use data beyond the AFR to take stock of the financial condition and customize the report as requested by the partnering city. Both of these levels have a fee associated to cover expenses.

The third product is also fee-based and designed to provide educational programs to local governments through workshops and online formats such as webinars. The base report(s) will be used as the foundation for selecting topics that impact city budgets in a variety of ways.

The fourth product involves translating academic research conducted at ISU in the areas of local government finance and economic development into a format that can be easily understood by all Iowans. The topics could be varied, but the effort will be to present the content in a format that establishes connections between finance and non-finance issues on the economic performance of cities and the quality of life for Iowans.


Farmland Values Fall from Historic High

Average Iowa farmland value is now estimated to be $7,943 per acre—a drop in value of $773, or 8.9 percent, per acre. Land values were determined by the Iowa Land Value Survey, which was conducted in November by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University. Results from the survey are similar to results found by the Realtors Land Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

As farmland values do not rise or fall uniformly across the state, the survey examines values by crop reporting districts; each of the 99 counties individually; low, medium and high grade farmland; and also averages the state as a whole. The $7,943 per acre and 8.9 percent drop in value represent the state as a whole.

While this year marks the largest decline in farmland values since 1986, it is only the second year since 1999 that the survey has shown a decline in farmland values. After hitting a historic peak in 2013, values have returned to a mid-point between 2011 and 2012 values. In spite of the decrease, farmland values are more than double what they were 10 years ago, 81 percent higher than 2009 values, and 18 percent higher than 2011 values.

I think we have seen a peak for the time being,” said Michael Duffy, a retired ISU economics professor and extension farm management economist, who conducted this year’s survey. “Commodity prices and farm income are settling back to more expected levels, and I think land values will probably move sideways for a while,” he said. “Many people think this report indicates the beginning of another farm crisis, but land values are still considerably higher than they were just a few years ago.”

Scott County reported highest values

For the second year in a row, Scott (eastern) and Decatur (south-central) counties reported the highest and lowest farmland values, respectively. Decatur County reported a value per acre of $3,587, a drop of $41 per acre from last year’s report. While Scott County reported the highest value at $11,618 per acre, prices there declined about $795 per acre, or about $22 per acre more than the statewide average.

Scott County typically has the highest value primarily due to the location on the (Mississippi) river and good soil,” Duffy said.

The largest decrease in farmland value was in southwest Iowa, which reported a drop of 13.5 percent. Worth County, located in the northeast portion of the state, however, reported the largest percentage drop in value for any one county at 15.2 percent. The value of all grades of farmland fell, with high-grade farmland taking the largest hit and losing a full 9 percent ($974 per acre) of its value.

The reason high-grade farmland fell in value faster than low- or medium-grade farmland is because it had increased in value faster over the past few years,” Duffy said. Medium- and low-grade farmland fared slightly better, losing 8.5 percent ($688 per acre) and 7.9 percent ($420 per acre), of their values, respectively.  

The only crop reporting district to show an increase in values was southeast Iowa, which reported values at 3.2 percent higher than last year. Keokuk County, located in the southeastern portion of the state, reported the largest percentage increase for any single county at 2.4 percent.

Drop in commodity prices influences farmland values

Corn and soybean prices started falling in 2013, and as a result farm income dropped. The most recent USDA net farm income estimate showed a record high income in 2013, but a 23 percent drop in net farm income for 2014. Falling commodity prices, along with a drop in farmland value, could make problems for some farmers.

The drop in farmland value is due to the drop in commodity prices,” Duffy said. “Pressure could come if farmers incurred debt in anticipation that commodity prices would continue. I think all farmers will have a cash flow problem for the next 18 months or so. If farmers still have equity in their land they should be able to refinance, but farmers who got over-extended will be in trouble.”

Of respondents that listed positive and/or negative factors influencing farmland values, low interest rates were the most commonly cited positive factor, and lower commodity prices were the most frequently cited negative factor. Other negative factors mentioned included high input prices and an uncertain agricultural future.

The survey was initiated in 1941 and is sponsored annually by Iowa State University. Only the state average and the district averages are based directly on the ISU survey data. The county estimates are derived using a procedure that combines the ISU survey results with data from the US Census of Agriculture. Beginning this year the survey is being conducted by the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Economics Department at Iowa State University.

The survey is based on reports by licensed real estate brokers and selected individuals considered to be knowledgeable of land market conditions. Respondents were asked to report for more than one county if they were knowledgeable about the land markets. The 2014 survey is based on 428 usable responses providing 608 county land values estimates.

For additional resources, including maps and historical survey data, please see http://www.card.iastate.edu/land-value/2014/


Yard and Garden: Safely Handle Fresh-cut Christmas Trees

Live, fresh-cut Christmas trees add life and vibrancy to any home at this time of year. But they do come with some issues which should be addressed for maximum enjoyment and safety.

Here are some tips from horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach on how to handle your Christmas tree. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at
515-294-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

There are some tiny bugs on my Christmas tree.  What should I do?

Aphids and spiders are the two most commonly found pests on fresh-cut Christmas trees. In both cases, adults that were on the trees back in late summer or fall laid eggs on the branches or needles. These eggs normally remain dormant through the inhospitable weather of winter, but they hatch when they become sufficiently warmed by heat within the house. An infestation may vary from just a few to several hundred individuals. Newly hatched insects and spiderlings are very small (approximately 1/16 inch).  

None of the insects or spiders that emerge after being carried in on a fresh-cut tree will cause any harm or damage to the tree, the house, the furnishings or the occupants. They cannot bite or sting and they will not live long enough to grow or multiply. The tiny insects or spiderlings are simply an annoyance.  

An application of an insecticide to fresh-cut Christmas trees is unnecessary and not recommended. The insects and spiders will quickly die of starvation or desiccation, whichever comes first. If newly hatched insects or spiders are found on the floor or other areas around the tree, simply vacuum them up and discard them.

How long can a cut Christmas tree remain in the house?

The length of time a cut Christmas tree can remain in the home is determined by the tree species, the freshness of the tree at purchase, and its placement and care in the home. In general, a fresh, well-cared-for Christmas tree should be able to remain in the home for three to four weeks. Remove the tree from the house when its needles become dry and brittle.

What are some good ways to dispose of a Christmas tree after the holidays?

After the holidays, there are several ways to dispose of or recycle your tree. (Before recycling your Christmas tree, remove all tinsel and ornaments.)  

Place the tree in the yard or garden for use by birds and other wildlife. The branches provide shelter from strong winds and cold. Food can be supplied by hanging fruit slices, seed cakes, suet bags, or strings of cranberries or raisins on the tree’s branches. You can also smear peanut butter and seeds in pine cones and hang them in the tree.  

Prune off the tree’s branches and place the boughs over perennials as a winter mulch. Chip the tree and use the chipped material as a mulch around trees, shrubs or in perennial flower beds.  

If you can’t use the tree yourself, contact your Solid Waste Agency or sanitation service. Most communities have some type of Christmas tree disposal program. Some have central collection points, others collect the trees at curbside. Collected trees may be chipped into mulch and made available to local residents or used in city parks. Others may chipped and composted.  

Conservation groups may be another option. Some hunting and fishing groups collect trees and use them to provide habitat for wildlife.  

Don’t burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. Dry, evergreen branches literally explode when burned and could cause a house fire. Also, burning the tree may contribute to the buildup of creosote and lead to a flue fire.  


Tips Help Small Farm Owners Prepare for Winter

The quiet of winter is a time for holiday celebrations, family gatherings and managing Midwest winter weather on an acreage, but the cold and snowy weather often prevents acreage owners from making outside home maintenance. So, what can an acreage owner do in the winter to stay ahead of home maintenance? In the December issue of Acreage Living, experts at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach say there is plenty.

The December Acreage Living articles give acreage owners insights on how to protect their landscaping and optimize their energy use during the winter. Being aware of their winter operations can help them prepare for spring,” said Christa Hartsook, ISU Extension and Outreach small farms program coordinator. “The monthly newsletter provides information that is relevant to small farm and acreage owners across the state.”

Obviously, home insulation is the biggest tool for saving heating energy at home during the winter months,” said Shawn Shouse, ISU Extension and Outreach ag engineering specialist. “Beyond that major factor, there are other things you can do to curb your home energy diet.”

Shouse details several aspects for homeowners to assess and minimize home energy use in the latest issue of Acreage Living, an electronic newsletter sent from the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Small Farms program.

You can search for unwanted air leaks by looking for cold temperatures using your hand or a non-contact infrared thermometer,” said Shouse. His advice also includes tips for optimizing household appliance use, installing programmable thermostats and adjusting lighting.

After determining areas to save money inside your home this winter, experts suggest looking outside. Food scarcity during the winter can make acreage landscaping a target for rabbits and other wildlife.

Rabbits can severely damage trees and shrubs unless homeowners are proactive. Protecting them should be a major priority,” said Richard Jauron, ISU Extension and Outreach horticulture specialist.

Jauron explains how to protect trees and shrubs, identify which plants are most likely to be damaged by rabbits, and what can be done to mitigate damage that has already occurred in the latest issue of the newsletter.

Acreage Living is free online newsletter

Other featured articles in the December issue of the Acreage Living newsletter include caring for horses in the winter, estimating costs of pasture and hay production, starting a bird feeding program, renting out storage space on acreages, planning a spring garden and online financial skill building classes.

A growing number of Iowa’s small family farmers are turning to alternative agriculture ventures and new markets to diversify their operations and increase their environmental stewardship. In Iowa, small farms make up about 80 percent of farms across the state and the Small Farms Sustainability program offers resources and information to acreage owners.

To subscribe to the Acreage Living newsletter and view past issues, visit the small farms program at www.extension.iastate.edu/smallfarms.