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Congressional Leaders Come to Rural Minnesota – to Listen

In the upper Midwest, prices have been down the last few years, but yields have been good. (FranksWorldPics)
In the upper Midwest, prices have been down the last few years, but yields have been good. (FranksWorldPics)
August 2, 2017

MORGAN, Minn. - Only three listening sessions have been scheduled in advance of the new farm bill in Congress, and one of those is Thursday in Morgan, near Redwood Falls.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-Minn., is convening the meeting so that House Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and other members can hear directly from food producers in the upper Midwest. Farm leaders such as Minnesota Farm Bureau president Kevin Paap are encouraging farmers to attend.

"This is a huge deal for agriculture and really for Minnesota," Paap said. "To have not only the chairman of the ag committee but also the ranking member to hear directly from the farmers is a huge advantage in Minnesota."

The meeting, set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, is part of the annual Minnesota Farmfest, at Highways 67 and 13 in Morgan.

Paap said Congress should remember that farm bill provisions affect everybody. He thinks one good idea would be to change the name of the legislation from "farm bill" to "food bill."

"There'll be a lot of great ideas, a lot of great programs, and not enough money to do them all," he said. "Our recommendation is to make sure that we keep food - that's really what connects everybody to farmers and ranchers - to make sure that food and nutrition is continued as part of this."

Minnesota farmers have had a tough couple of years as the price of corn has plummeted. Paul Lanoue, a farmer and Minnesota State University farm-management instructor, said farm bill incentives make a big difference in whether people he knows can keep farming.

"They're burning through cash positions they had when corn was in a good position," he said, "just to make payments on bills."

No matter what farm bill package Congress agrees on next year, it may face opposition from the White House. President Trump's budget called for a $38 billion cut in subsidies to farmers.

"Well, with all the chaos that's going on in Washington, there is one thing that's consistent: Everyone eats," Lanoue said. "We need to know, from day to day, if we're going to be able to have farms."

Lanoue said he hopes the need for affordable, healthy food will override congressional dysfunction.

Information on Farmfest is online at here.

Laurie Stern, Public News Service - MN