Recent content from Christopher Vondracek
Cargill to stop handling Russian grains for export as war in Ukraine continues
Citing "export-related challenges," the Minnesota-based grain giant said it will stop elevating Russian grain in July.
Architect, artist, so much more: Scott Helmes, 77, is remembered as 'incredibly talented'
He could spot beauty in the ordinary.
Minnesota debates right-to-repair bills as tractor makers, farm groups seek amends
In January, the Farm Bureau struck a deal with John Deere to open their computer codes to independent mechanics to fix farm machinery. Some farmers say more is needed.
Woodbury police arrest four linked to multiple carjackings
Three adults and one juvenile were booked Saturday evening into Washington County jail.
State agency alleges eight minors illegally employed by Minnesota meatpacker, seeks court injunction
Minnesota's Department of Labor and Industry has requested a judge in Watonwan County issue a temporary restraining order against Tony Downs Food Co., alleging the food processor is employing minors.
A Minnesota nonprofit proposes facility to make chemicals from corn, sugar beets, even dandelions
A new bill in St. Paul would spend $100 million on an innovation facility for BioMADE, a Minnesota-based nonprofit looking to generate bioindustrial manufacturing.
Minnesota had set a price floor for dairy products. A new bill could remove it
Backers said repealing a decades-old law would aid farmers by allowing retailers to position products as so-called "loss leaders."
CHS fined $531,000 for safety failures in death of Nebraska grain worker
OSHA cited the Inver Grove Heights-based farmers cooperative for inadequate "safety gear."
Indemnity fund, meant to protect Minnesota farmers when grain elevators go bust, clears hurdle
The Minnesota Senate ag committee approved a safety net for farmers whose grain payments go unpaid by a bankrupt elevator.
Minnesota's western flank loses voice on key ag panel as farm bill heats up
Western Minnesota possesses the state's largest ag lands and for decades has been represented on the House ag committee — until this year.
Hormel off to disappointing financial start to 2023, with sluggish snack-brand Planters
The Minnesota-based company, which owns household brands Hormel and Planters, reported $3 billion in revenue with sales down 2% for the first quarter.
Federal government investigates more than 600 child labor cases across nation
U.S. officials announced new multi-agency efforts to root out child labor, building on last year's slaughterhouse investigation, which included several cases in Minnesota.
Cargill names two women to lead finance, global strategy on leadership team
Joanne Knight — acting CFO and General Mills veteran — will permanently step into her executive team role after Jamie Miller's departure.
Sanford-Fairview health merger exposes Minn.-S.D. cultural divide
A merger between Fairview and Sioux Falls-based Sanford would be based in South Dakota. Health leaders say the conservative state's laws wouldn't affect abortion or care for transgender youth. It's been a tough sell.
How some Minnesota farmers grow green produce in frozen winter months
"This is how we grow vegetables up here" in the winter, says one Rochester farmer.
Labor Department: Over 100 children hired to clean meatpacking plants, including in Minnesota
Wisconsin-based Packers Sanitation Services paid $1.5 million to the Labor Department on Thursday in illegal child labor fines.
New Cargill CEO on role in global food chain: 'Food can't be weaponized'
Brian Sikes took the helm at America's largest private company on Jan. 1, at a moment in time full of volatility and international upheaval.
Minnesota farmers meet over meatballs, talk legislation
An informal gathering billed as a "listening session" by organizers found legislative agriculture leaders seated in a Pierz machine shop, hearing directly from farmers from across the state.
Cargill, CHS adding Houston terminal to joint venture TEMCO for grain shipments
Minnesota agribusinesses say expansion to the Gulf of Mexico will bring more stability to grain shipping.
Government wants tractors back from Minnesota organic farmer accused of fraud
A judge returned a farmer's tractors in order to harvest crops last fall — even though the man stands accused of fraud. Now, his attorney says the tractors should stay on his farm.
New honeybee vaccine gets little buzz from Minnesota bee community
The USDA has approved the first-ever vaccine for honeybees. But Minnesota's beekeepers say their troubles are bigger.
Study: Topsoil 'being eroded 100 times faster than it's forming'
An eye-popping new report argues that soil erosion in the Midwest — including from samples in southwestern Minnesota — is happening at a far faster clip than previously estimated.
After daylong search, missing Stillwater man's body found
George Musser had last been seen at a downtown Stillwater bar early Saturday morning.
U's new grape can withstand cold winters — though maybe not Minnesota cold
Clarion, the latest grape bred by the University of Minnesota's nurseries, packs previous grape Itasca's flavor profile but with tidier growth.
State fund would help Minnesota grain elevators, which are closing at an alarming rate for farmers
After bankruptcies by grain buyers, the push is on for a state-backed indemnity fund.
E15 ethanol blend might soon be available year-round
Critics say the movement to frame ethanol as good for the planet is "greenwashing." But political momentum has grown, citing rural economies and domestic energy.
Meatpacking cleaning firm to lay off Worthington employees after JBS ends its contract
The Labor Department has alleged that PSSI has hired minors to clean slaughterhouses, which is considered hazardous work.
Gov. Tim Walz 'asking our team to be bold' to attract workers to Minnesota
Facing demographic challenges, the Minnesota governor talked about ways to draw new residents.
Child-labor violations at meatpacking plants in Minnesota stand out for their brazenness
Over the last five years, Minnesota officials issued dozens of child-labor citations. But the violations in Worthington and Marshall are called "shocking."
PSSI accepts more oversight to end child labor suit at Minnesota meatpacking plants
The agreement ends a public court battle, but the Department of Labor continues to investigate.
EPA proposes more biofuel blending in nation's gasoline
Minnesota's farm groups cheered the proposed rule that would set volumes for how much biofuel must be mixed with petroleum until 2025.
Shoppers flock to Christmas tree farms: 'Is this one too chonky?'
Minnesota tree farmers say irrigation and timely rain aided their seasonal crop. But prices may be up.
Walz signals openness to revived Sanford-Fairview merger
The two health systems tried to combine in 2013, but the deal fell apart after resistance from Minnesota political leaders.
In meatpacking towns, some say child labor is 'not a secret'
Labor Department attorneys say PSSI, a Wisconsin-based cleaning service, illegally employed six underage staff at JBS Pork in Worthington and Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall.
Turkey given seat at table, if not exactly a pardon, in Minnesota
Gov. Tim Walz and industry players appeared at the Capitol with the turkey on a table. Thursday is the turkey industry's big day — and no other state grows more birds than Minnesota.
Martin McHugh, Minnesota's elder statesman of Irish traditional music, dies at 93
An immigrant from County Roscommon, Ireland, McHugh enlivened trad sessions — from living rooms to pubs — for decades in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Uptown favorite Stella's Fish Cafe to close
Without citing a reason for closure, a longstanding Minneapolis rooftop hotspot says Nov. 26 is its last day.
Fake IDs hid ages of underage slaughterhouse workers, court papers say
Wisconsin-based PSSI, an industry-leading sanitation service for meatpacking plants, has a history of safety violations and was recently bought by a major private equity firm.
Minnesota is a top corn producer. But how much of it is eaten by humans?
The state's plentiful corn harvest is destined for much more than grocery stores and summer barbecues.
CHS sees 'bullish' demand in soybean oil, citing renewable diesel
A West Coast hungry for renewable diesel to combat climate change has driven a surge in Minnesota's backyard for oil extracted from crushed soybeans.
Incumbent Brad Finstad bests ex-food CEO Jeff Ettinger in southern Minnesota congressional race
The First District campaign saw talk of inflation and abortion in a district that has historically flipped between Republican and Democratic control.
Farmers still reeling from bird flu as Thanksgiving approaches
Supplies are expected to be adequate, but new cases of the flu have put enormous pressure on poultry producers, who worry that outbreaks may be the new normal.
Farmers are pulling the last corn from Minnesota's dry fields
With warm, dry conditions, Minnesota's corn growers are 10 days ahead of schedule in reaping season's yields.
Talk of farm country in Minnesota's First District congressional race takes back seat to national topics
GOP incumbent Brad Finstad and retired Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger are facing off for the second time in three months.
Researchers fight broccoli blight in Minnesota's fields
Black rot has been harming many of the state's broccoli crops as farmers face erratic weather patterns.
Furry hogs still at large in Faribault County after DNR hunted down others
It's not the first time possibly feral hogs — which have proven a menace in many Southern states and Canada — have bred in the wild in Minnesota.
Southern Minnesota struck (again) by intense drought
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designates nine Minnesota counties — all in the farm-rich, rural west and south — as disaster areas for this summer's drought conditions.
Minnesota hemp farmers hit brakes as the state's industry opens up
Farmers, previously willing to experiment with hemp, say the risk of their plants "going hot" beyond the legal THC limit may not be worth it. Many want better seed genetics and improved end-market infrastructure in Minnesota.
Barge traffic bottlenecks and low water on Mississippi River loom during Minnesota's crop harvest
With major barge jams farther south along the Mississippi, the nation's premier inland waterway for agriculture exports has proven costlier for grain shippers and farmers farther north.
As Minnesota's wheat harvest concludes, sugar beet crop hits prime time
Wheat farmers had a soggy start to the season but report good bushels-per-acre harvested.
Seeds of a food revolution grow on the White Earth Indian Reservation
A survey of the tribal college's population revealed some of the highest rates of food insecurity among students in the nation. So the college's extension director created a farm.
What happened during the takeover of the Minnesota State Capitol in 1937?
For 15 hours in April 1937, the Minnesota Senate Chamber was under the rule of protesters who'd been encouraged by the governor.
Struggling food pantries look to congressional farm bill for assistance
Rural Minnesota food banks are searching for fresh food as inflation and supply-side challenges squeeze donations.
SEC settles with CHS over employee's manipulation of rail contracts
The agency says the Inver Grove Heights-based agriculture co-op has put in place safeguards to protect the accuracy of company bookkeeping.
Victims in triple homicide on St. Paul's East Side are identified
Police arrived about 4:30 p.m. Sunday to find two people with gunshot wounds waiting for them outside a two-story home on the 900 block of Case Avenue E. Three more victims were inside the home, and medics pronounced them dead at the scene.
Lindstrom man wanted crop art honoring 'The Shining.' Then his family showed up.
The Lindstrom artist's work may have planted a seed in the next generation.
California's ban on gas-powered cars worries Minnesota's corn and soybean farmers
By 2035, new sales of gas-fueled engines will be banned in California, making some farmers who grow crops for the ethanol industry anxious.
Inside the 'magical' world of competitive vegetable growing at the Minnesota State Fair
The Minnesota State Fair draws submissions of largest pumpkin, cabbage, potato and squash. Sure, sunshine, soil and good seeds help, but some experiment with lesser-known tricks.
'That's still the dream': Buying up Minnesota farmland
With land prices hitting record levels, the ability to buy up Minnesota farmland is increasingly difficult for most beginning farmers. But some still try (and succeed).
5 changes Minnesotans will likely see from the historic climate bill
The Inflation Reduction Act has the potential to transform the way we drive, heat our homes and grow our food.
A look at the Canadian company buying Famous Dave's
Quebec-based MTY Group got its start in shopping malls and business food courts.
Don't mess with federal crop insurance, farmers say. Others aren't so sure
Some experts say time is ripe to drop the carrot and pick up the stick.
Minnesota farmers call outside investments 'a sticky situation'
Minnesota farmers at the annual Farmfest say they have been paying attention to deals in North Dakota, including the purchase of ag land by a Bill Gates-backed trust and the pending development of a corn mill by Chinese investors.
At Farmfest, Minnesota congressional candidates pledge support for rural economies
In the competitive Second District race, Rep. Angie Craig and challenger Tyler Kistner flexed their farm country credentials.
Impact of Ukraine war ripples across state's farm economy
In the U.S., few places have ties to Ukraine as deep as Minnesota, where a rocket landing in a wheat field in Kherson can mean higher prices for a farmer in Kittson County, or a land mine outside Odesa raises the stress for an ag exec in Inver Grove Heights.
Minnesota farmers share farm bill priorities at congressional listening session
The House agriculture subcommittee on commodities held the session on a southern Minnesota farm on Monday.
Minnesota's meat lockers need apprentices to solve bottlenecks, report says
Some shoppers turned to local farmers and butcher shops during the pandemic, but smaller producers are stretched thin.
Minnesota dairy farmer advocates for regenerative ag at congressional hearing
A Minnesota dairy farmer from Fillmore County testified to a House oversight subcommittee on Tuesday about regenerative agricultural practices that aid water and soil health.
Minnesotan agriculture leaders to join USDA trade trip to Philippines
The state's crop lobbies, as well as the top ag official, will join agriculture and food groups from around the country on a three-day mission to Manila.
Carbon farming takes root at Land O'Lakes subsidiary
Truterra, owned by ag giant Land O'Lakes, launched a carbon program in 2021, paying farmers to adopt other earth-friendly farm practices. Truterra sells those credits to Microsoft in a carbon-offsetting deal.
Cottonwood County farmer charged in $46 million organic grain fraud scheme
The top federal prosecutor in Minnesota announced an indictment on Monday of a Jeffers man for marketing non-GMO grains as organic.
CHS reports half-a-billion in quarterly profit as war in Ukraine roils grain and fuel markets
Strong demand for oil, higher commodity markets drove profits for the nation's largest agribusiness cooperative, headquartered in Minnesota.
Meatpackers still face price-fixing complaints in federal court in Minnesota
Smithfield's settlement doesn't end the lawsuit, which also names Minnesota's Hormel. A similar suit against the "Big 4" beef packers, including Cargill, is before the same judge.
Ag commodity prices cool after late-spring spikes
Corn prices hit $8 a bushel in the spring, but have since retreated. The same is true with wheat and soybeans as Brazil harvests, shipments escape the Black Sea and hedge funds drop ag commodities.
Will the corn be 'knee-high by the Fourth of July'? Maybe, this year
The outdated slogan may be relevant this year after heavy rains and cold temperatures delayed Minnesota's corn crop season.