Work continues on finding solutions to get the Mille Lacs Lake walleye fishery back to good health. My goal is twofold: address the economic issues we face today and restore long-term stability for the lake. We need near-term assistance for our local economy and at the end of the day we must provide a long-term solution to the current walleye fishery problems.
I am part of a newly formed working group. We met twice this week in St. Paul and will continue working on solutions. I greatly appreciate the information I have been receiving from local citizens who understand the lake better than most and input from state agency personnel.
We in the Legislature and the governor must gain a consensus on the way forward. We have to deal with the current and future economic impact of the early ending of this year's walleye season. We must determine as soon as possible the implications for our winter ice fishing season, and next spring's opener. That will allow our businesses to start planning how to deal with what those decisions will bring. The long-term solution centers on figuring out how to manage the lake for a robust and stable walleye population. That will stem the economic damage we are currently suffering.
I have been working with our county officials on this matter. Our county auditor offices in particular are providing business-related information to help determine an effective way to provide economic assistance. It is clear we don't have the tools on the shelf ready to deal with this type of economic issue. We need to fix that quickly.
As to restoring and stabilizing the walleye fishery, I am seeing progress on the concept of stocking Mille Lacs with walleye fry as another way to help stabilize the ups and downs of yearly walleye classes. No definitive plan is yet in place, but the working group is scheduled to meet next week and that is one of many items that will get further attention.
The walleye fishery issue is going to be with us for several years, so we have to make smart choices that will resolve the problem for the long term. That will require some tough decisions, but Mother Nature has made it clear that what we have been doing is not working.
I want to publicly extend my congratulations to the Torgerson family of Aitkin County and to the Jones family from Crow Wing County for receiving 2015 Farm Family of the Year honors. They were special guests on Thursday during the annual Farmfest event near Redwood Falls.
The Torgerson-Teas Gelbvieh farm is operated by Hank and Faye Torgerson. Hank and Faye started their farming operation in 1973 with two commercial cows. In 1980, they purchased two registered Gelbvieh cows and, today, the family has 21 Gelbvieh cows, along with this year's calf crop and two bulls. The Torgersons' granddaughter, Shianne, started her own herd of three registered Hereford heifers in 2013.
The Torgersons are longtime members of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, the National Cattlemen’s Association and the Central Minnesota Cattlemen's Association. They also serve as volunteers for the Aitkin County 4-H. Their grandchildren are active in their local 4-H and FFA.
Bob and Arlene Jones in Crow Wing County purchased their 80-acre parcel of land in 2006. Now, “The Farm on St. Mathias” is a destination farm for those have not had the opportunity grow up or even visit a farm. The Joneses produce vegetables – both in the field and in a high tunnel – and raise hops. The farm's annual corn maze is a huge attraction and they provide hay rides in the fall. The Jones family also hosts weddings, family reunions, fundraisers and musical events.
Bob and Arlene are both active Master Gardeners in Crow Wing County. They’ve teamed up to develop the local foods value chain and founded SPROUT Minnesota, a local foods group involving over 50 small family farms in the area.
Again, congratulations to these two wonderful area families for doing great things for the ag. industry in our area. More information regarding this program and full profiles of all 80 Minnesota families recognized this year is available at http://mnfarmfamilies.cfans.umn.edu.