On Thursday, a few members of the U.S. House Ag Committee and Sixth District Congressman Tom Emmer, formerly a member of the committee, listened to public testimony about the next Farm Bill.
The New Ulm Journal's Fritz Busch reports in U.S. House Ag Committee hears from farmers:
Dozens of farmers, ranchers and organizational leaders voiced their opinion on what should be in the next Farm Bill to U.S. House Agricultural Committee members, drawing a big crowd to the Farmfest Forum building for 2 and 1/2 hours Thursday.
“We’re under a lot of financial stress in agriculture now with low prices. We can produce more than we use. We need the agriculture market,” said Kevin Paap, Minnesota Farm Bureau President and a Blue Earth County farmer.
Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish said there are attempts to delay upgrading food nutrition labels and cut SNAP (food stamps).
“I’d urge you not to do that,” Wertish said. “A higher percentage of rural people are in the SNAP program than there are in urban areas.”
Wertish said broadband expansion to rural areas, high healthcare costs are huge issues.
“Not everyone can work off the farm to get healthcare benefits. Take the politics out of it and get something done,” Wertish said.
A number of farmers said taxpayers don’t need to subsidize large agricultural operators.
Jerry Matzner of Century Farm Dairy near Clarkfield said a 1,500 acre organic farm operation supports 10 families and three more families are being mentored into organics.
Other conservation-minded farmers called the discovery of more and more nitrates in rural wells as “a slow, unfolding crisis in agriculture.”
“Water is critical for the public good,” said a Le Sueur County farmer. “Crop diversity is also important.”
Read the rest at the New Ulm Journal. At KEYC-TV in Mankato, Shawn Loging reports in Farm Bill Takes Center Stage At Farmfest:
As the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture looks to craft the 2018 farm bill, folks from all across the Ag industry are putting in their two cents about what needs to be in the bill.
The process writing a new farm bill will take center stage later this year.
And while most of the work will take place on Capitol Hill, Aug. 3 at Farmfest, lawmakers heard from people who rely on the legislation about what they need and want.
A farmer said, "This next farm bill should prioritize farmers. You know, farmers first, over corporate agribusiness mergers."
The panel included eleven members of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture and subcommittees, hearing from dozens addressing staples of the law to keep and improve on. . . .
Minnesota DHS Commissioner Emily Piper said, "Almost 12 percent of our state's population receives SNAP every month, and 70 percent of those people are people with disabilities, children and seniors all across our state."
It's a combination lawmakers say is needed to make the bill work, covering both rural and urban America.
First Congressional District Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) said, "It has the nutrition titles in there, both SNAP, other programs, and then it also has the farm programs in it, and that's what keeps the balance in there. Those that are saying we should rip them apart that will guarantee we'll never get a farm bill." ...
Watch the news report at KEYC-TV. In his Capitol Chatter column, Forum News political reporter Don Davis writes in Lights, cameras, silence (from politicians):
They do not often bring in television lights for a Farmfest forum.
But that is not the only unusual thing about a forum on the last day of the southwest Minnesota agriculture event: Eleven U.S. representatives featured at the forum gave brief opening remarks and then shut up (well, except for some chatting among themselves). Some testifiers appeared surprised that the congressmen actually were listening to them.
To add to the unusual atmosphere, it was 61 degrees, unheard-of cold for Farmfest.
After hearing about cotton and peanuts at a Texas hearing earlier in the week, the U.S.House Agriculture Committee listened to Minnesota ag concerns Thursday, Aug. 3. Members heard from about 50 people, at less than two minutes per person, leaving about 20 people who could not testify after time ran out.
The Farmfest forum building was packed with hundreds interested in the farm bill, which House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, wants to pass late this year or early next year. Federal laws have deep impacts on farm life, especially after a disaster.
As expected, Minnesota was well represented at the committee table with Reps. Collin Peterson, Tim Walz, Tom Emmer and Rick Nolan. North Dakota's lone congressman, Kevin Cramer was there, as was South Dakota's Kristi Noem.
Others came from Kansas, Illinois, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
Elsewhere, David reports in Congressional committee hears Minnesota ideas for farm bill:
Crop insurance. Organic agriculture. Young farmers. Conservation. Sugar help. Vaccine. Feeding the poor. International trade.
The list started there and went on and on as 11 U.S. representatives sat through 2½ hours of ideas from Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa farmers and agribusiness people about how they should write new federal farm legislation.
The only common theme the 11 heard was that they want the federal government to help agriculture. . . .
After brief opening remarks from each lawmaker, they sat back and listened to about 50 testifiers at Farmfest, the annual southwestern Minnesota agricultural event. Another 20 signed up, but time ran out before they could testify.
Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota are taking the committee to a half-dozen listening sessions, intending to use what they learn to write a farm bill they hope Congress can pass late this year or early next.
"Bringing the Agriculture Committee to my district, to Farmfest, gave members the opportunity to hear directly from Minnesota’s farmers about the challenges they face in this part of the country," Peterson said.
Members included Rep. Dwight Evans, a Philadelphia Democrat who has no farmers in his district.
"There is a direct connection between farmers and consumers," Evans said.
With just 36 out of 435 congressmen coming from rural districts, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said, it is important to convince others about the importance of farming. "I talk about it from a national security standpoint."
Many testifiers belong to the Land Stewardship Project, which generally seeks protection for small farmers and for increased conservation support.
Darwyn Bach said the project wants the farm bill to stop "encouraging and subsidizing corporate concentration." Small farms would better support local communities, he said.
Jerry Matzner of Century Farm Organics was one of several who urged that organic farmers again be included in the farm bill, which Peterson first did when he was ag chairman.
Customers are willing to pay more for food if they are assured it is truly organic, he said. "Your support for the organic industry is critical for small farmers." . . .
Check out the full Davis story here.
Bluestem predicts corporate agribusiness will win this round. It's hard to shake 'em off like fleas.
Mankato Free Press's Trey Mewes reported much of the same in Farmers to Congress: Keep ag safety nets, nutrition in farm bill but left out the voices of small farmers. Heckova filter. Elsewhere in Minnesota ag politics, USDA secretary Sonny Perdue visited Minnesota Farm Bureau president Kevin Papp's farm in rural Blue Earth County, Mewes reports in Farmers urge ag secretary to 'address relief'.
Here's the video, cued to the convening of the session, hosted by U.S. House Ag Committee Chairman Michael Conway (TX) and U.S. House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (MN) via Farm Bureau TV:
Photo: Land Stewardship members showed up in Our Farm Bill gimme hats. Via LSP Facebook page.
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