CANNON FALLS, Minn. (WCCO) — The nation’s top agriculture official is now chiming in on Minnesota’s drought conditions.

Rain in the past week helped improve conditions slightly in southeast Minnesota, but we hit exceptional drought to the northwest. WCCO found out conditions are now prompting federal attention.

At Callister Farms in Cannon Falls, the pictures tell the story; dust is plentiful, rain in short supply.

Chip Callister farms the land.

“We’ve definitely been impacted by the drought, but I think you could go around the state of Minnesota here and find areas that are a lot worse,” he said.

Callister, who took over this land from his grandpa, farms beans, corn and cattle. He’s trying to keep it all in perspective, but his hay supply is one-seventh of what it should be this time of year.

“Commodity prices have come up, cattle prices I think are working their way back up, but now all the sudden you get hit with this. And again, I need to find winter feed,” Callister said.

Other farmers, along with Sen. Tina Smith, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Congresswoman Angie Craig, spent the morning on the Callister farm, hosting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who evaluated the situation in Cannon Falls.

“Your heart goes out every time you come on a farm like this,” Vilsack said.

Farmers say the drought comes after fuel prices have skyrocketed and labor has become scarce, making the future for aspiring ag pros like Emily Matejka iffy. She is the state president of Future Farmers of America.

“I think it’s easy to get sucked into that negativity but I think personally moving forward all we need to do is have that hope and focus on the positive, because that positive impact and that positive mindset is really what’s gonna drive us forward,” Matejka said.

The secretary said it’s about positivity, too, saying he believes the transformation and infrastructure bills could help make it easier for farmers to sell their products and hire immigrant workers, allowing them to better weather a drought.

Vilsack explained that “will provide them a real opportunity to expand our operations. The goal here is to keep Chip and Mickey on the, so they can transfer it to the next generation.”

Callister said he’ll do what farmers do — dig in with their hands and their heels.

“We will get through it, yeah,” he said.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield