Notes from the MN Farmers Union 7-17-12
Notes from the Minnesota Farmers Union Tuesday July 17, 2012
MFU Golf event this Thursday
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) Foundation is having their 5th annual golf benefit for Lake Sarah and Farmers Union youth programs. The golf benefit will be at Oak Lake golf course in Erskine this Thursday July 19 at 12:30 p.m. This year, golfers will also have an opportunity to see what their generous donations have been used for at an open house at Lake Sarah. “This golf benefit has helped Minnesota Farmers Union Foundation improve member and youth education efforts as well as providing improvements to the Lake Sarah educational campground,” said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President. “Lake Sarah is a Farmers Union treasure and a place where thousands of kids have learned about agriculture and cooperatives, made lasting friendships, and life-long memories at our leadership camp.” Start time for the two-person scramble is 12:30 p.m. with a cost of $35 for 9 holes and $45 for 18 holes; fees also include a meal at the Lake Sarah campground. Prizes will be awarded with proceeds going toward Farmers Union youth camps and activities at Lake Sarah. Non-golfers can purchase dinner for $15, and child care is available. You still might be able to get a spot contact MFU field representative Ken Pazdernik, 218.206.4499 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. All donations are tax deductible.
NFU on passage of Farm Bill by House Ag Committee
President Roger Johnson issued the following statement after the successful passage of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) recently through the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture by a bipartisan 35-11 vote: “NFU thanks the leadership of the House Agriculture Committee for its hard work in passing the FARRM Act out of committee. NFU is pleased that the committee included some protection for long-term price collapse, which is a critical part of any safety net. “NFU is also pleased that the committee rejected amendments to alter the no-cost sugar program and remove the critical Dairy Market Stabilization Program (DMSP) from the new dairy program. The sugar industry is important to our nation’s economic health, generating $20 billion annually and creating 142,000 jobs. And although NFU is skeptical of the untested dairy insurance program included in the Act, one thing that would certainly make the program wholly ineffective is allowing dairies to increase production unchecked. Eliminating the supply management provision would be disastrous and would lead to a repeat of the low prices the industry has seen in recent years. “The House Agriculture Committee also did well to preserve funding levels for conservation programs, which a recent NFU poll found is a priority for farmers across the country. The additional provisions that encourage federal nutrition program beneficiaries to use their benefits to purchase local and regional food also are also a positive step for local producers. Additionally, the committee's directive to the Risk Management Agency to complete its organic price series better protects organic producers by ensuring that they are indemnified at organic market prices. “Energy programs are a critical part of rural development, so NFU is disappointed that the energy title received no mandatory funding. Discretionary funds are awarded each year by appropriation and do not provide the secure multi-year funding necessary to promote renewable energy investment. “For more than a decade NFU has fought for Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), and we are deeply disappointed that the committee approved the amendment. This is an underhanded way to dismantle COOL behind closed doors and out of public view. Many in the leadership of the livestock industry seem intent on looking backward and ignoring consumer preferences. Consumers have a right to know from where their food comes, and Congress must not interfere with that right. “NFU is disheartened that the House Agriculture Committee voted to roll back progress made toward increasing competition and fairness in the livestock market. In the last 30 years, more than 500,000 beef cattle operations and nearly 600,000 hog producers have gone out of business. These livestock rules help level the playing field for independent producers and must be restored. “I urge House leadership to allow floor consideration of the FARRM Act as soon as possible and look forward to working with both chambers of Congress to complete this legislation by Sept. 30, when the current farm bill expires.”
NFU on Markets
NFU President Roger Johnson recently submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) urging the agency to release critical reports such as the monthly “Agricultural Prices” when markets are closed. “We believe that those using agricultural commodity markets, especially bona fide hedgers and end-users of commodities, would be best served if those markets were not open when the NASS critical reports were released,” said Johnson. “Whether the report releases occur outside of regular trading hours or during a pause in trading of one hour or more is at the discretion of USDA, but it stands to reason that it is beneficial for market participants to be able to read and analyze the reports before trading resumes. There are additional concerns that it may be difficult for some in rural areas to download the reports in time to react quickly when the markets are open, which underscores the need for a release time outside of trading hours.” In the first half of 2012, trading hours extended to more than 20 hours per day at both the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Intercontinental Exchange. This change prompted the need to reexamine report release times and consider the effect of those reports on the commodity markets. “NFU is also concerned by the ongoing shift in focus of commodity exchanges that has forced USDA to alter the report release schedule,” said Johnson. “Over time, and especially in recent years, commodity markets have shifted emphasis from managing the inherent risks of farming and business to the influx of speculators and index funds. Speculators are now thought to account for 85 percent of commodity market activity, which is far more than the 15 percent needed to maintain liquidity. It is unfortunate that federal agencies are now forced to act to conform to the needs of speculation rather than to the needs of the farmers and businesses using their products – the ostensible reason for these markets to exist in the first place.”
NFU on Health Care Act
President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response to the recent floor debate and vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA): “The House has already voted 30 times in the past 18 months to repeal, defund or dismantle the health care law, and each time it has gone nowhere. “It is time for the House to look forward to passing new legislation that might actually become law. The farm bill already passed the Senate with votes from both parties and is an excellent opportunity for the members of Congress to work together on a bipartisan, bicameral basis.
“Provisions of the ACA that have already begun to have a positive effect on rural Americans’ access to health care include relief from the Medicare prescription drug ‘donut hole’ for an aging rural population, coverage for uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions, parents’ ability to retain children on their insurance policy until age 26, the elimination of lifetime and annual dollar limits, and a small business tax credit to help rural small business owners afford insurance for their employees. Many farmers and ranchers are self-employed and cannot afford health care premiums. “Precious time on the shrinking legislative calendar for the year must be devoted to legislation such as the farm bill, which will have a real impact on real Americans, both rural and urban. The farm bill is a jobs bill that provides for significant investments in rural America. It also provides a safety net for farmers and ranchers across the country. With the Sept. 30 deadline looming to pass a new farm bill before the current bill expires, there simply is not enough time to fight a battle that has already been fought 30 times before.”
Army Corps drainage permits
MFU recently joined other Minnesota ag groups including Farm Bureau, Corn and Soybean Growers in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking for an extension to the July 18th deadline for their proposed general permit affecting farmers who install tile drainage or new drainage ditches. The Corps did grant the extension as well as a request to meet with groups to discuss the matter. The Corps insists this is a minor change that is more of an update to existing laws. MFU members who have questions about this should contact me.
This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the MFU-sponsored Minnesota Cooks program at the Minnesota State Fair. The event will run Sunday August 26th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The chefs and farmers have been announced you can see more at http://www.minnesotacooks.org/ This is a great event, also be sure to like Minnesota Cooks on Facebook: Minnesota Cooks Facebook
While much of Minnesota has been spared by the worst of the drought conditions facing the rest of the United States there some parts of Minnesota that are drying up fast. MFU President Doug Peterson will attend a drought roundtable next week at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to discuss options and resources for farmers and ranchers. Members can email me with concerns in their area and we will relay them. MFU has also been in contact with the Minnesota FSA regarding opening CRP lands up for emergency haying and grazing in some parts of the state.
Property Tax Working Group
MFU continues to monitor the work of the Legislature created Property Tax Working Group which will make recommendations to the 2013 legislature. Much of the work has centered on trying to simplify Minnesota’s property tax classes. Minnesota currently has over 50 different classes; the next nearest state South Dakota has 14. Again these will only be recommendations. The group meets next Wed. at the Capitol and the meetings are open to the public.
FarmFest welcomes Governor Dayton, candidates
The 31st annual Farmfest is set to open Aug. 7 at the Gilfillan Estate, seven miles southeast of Redwood Falls, Minn. Farmfest will open at 9am with a panel discussion on interconnected farming. "The Future of Farming" continues the IDEAg Interconnectivity series. Following the IDEAg Interconnectivity panel at 10:30am, Tom Rothman with the Minnesota Farm Network will moderate the Congressional Candidates' Forum on Agriculture and Rural Issues. Participating candidates include Congressman Collin Peterson (D-7), Lee Byberg (R), Congressman Tim Walz (D-1), Mike Parry (R), Alan Quist (R), and Mike Obermueller (D). Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton will deliver this year's Keynote Address at 1pm with U.S. Senator Al Franken opening The Renewable Fuel Standard...Fueling the Agricultural and Energy Industries forum at 2:45pm. Registration is open now. In its third decade, the IDEAg Farmfest continues to connect industry leading manufacturers/providers with decision making producers. It is a leading agricultural event, drawing attendees from around the region. Farmfest is visited each year by more than 35,000 attendees with over 600 vendors. The Farmfest Forums are developed by former University of Minnesota educator Kent Thiesse. Each year, thousands attend to hear from leaders in the field discussing topics national and state agricultural policy issues affecting rural Minnesota. For more information, log onto www.ideaggroup.com/farmfest . In addition watch for some exciting information about MFU at FarmFest this year!
House release Ag Publication
The Minnesota House of Representatives research department has released a new publication entitled “A Minnesota Lawmaker’s Guide to the Agri-Environment Policy Landscape”. Check it out here: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/agenvtlaw.pdf
Minnesota Flood resources
MN Dept. of Ag has resources on the web for Emergency Preparedness, including Flood Preparation & Response Information and other Resources for Storm Victims. Also on the MDA website, farmers may be interested in the local Farm Advocates Hotline at 1-800-967-2474 or MFAN, a network of volunteer financial analysts, farm business management instructors, extension educators and others to provide business and financial guidance at no cost to Minnesota farmers and farm families facing economic hardship. MFAN also serves as a referral for legal services, basic needs, and mental health counseling. Contact Kevin Plante 877-898-MFAN(6326) or www.mda.state.mn.us/mfan.
Farm Groups hosting Nitrate forum
Nitrogen is a common element and one of the basic building blocks of protein. But concerns arise when nitrates, one form of nitrogen, are found in elevated levels in wells, lakes or streams. Several state agencies conduct nitrate monitoring programs across Minnesota, primarily focused on drinking water. Agricultural researchers are exploring the connections between fertilizer use and water quality, while also looking for production practices that minimize the potential for nitrate contamination. The Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Center (MAWRC, which includes MFU) will host a free seminar “Minnesota Agriculture and Nitrates”, to highlight some of the most recent monitoring data and research If you have ever wanted to learn more about nitrates and how it affects plants, animals, people, water and land, be sure to attend. This educational event is made possible by the financial support of the Minnesota farm organizations comprising the MAWRC, a research and education organization dedicated to the protection of water quality and the continued advancement of agriculture in Minnesota. The seminar will be held at the Rochester International Event Center, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 25, 2012. The Center is located at 7333 Airport View Drive Southwest, Rochester, Minn. just off of Highway 63 and near the Rochester International Airport. The Minnesota Agriculture and Nitrates seminar includes a free noon meal, and pre-registration is not required. For more information and to view the full agenda go to www.mawrc.org.
FLAG releases Farmland preservation report
Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG), is pleased to announce the publication of a new and timely report, Preserving Minnesota’s Agricultural Land: Proposed Policy Solutions. This report analyzes Minnesota’s current laws and practices regarding farmland preservation, suggests steps the state can take to strengthen and streamline existing programs, and recommends new tools the state can adopt to better preserve farmland. The report, funded in large part by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, includes:
- A summary of trends in the conversion of Minnesota’s farmland to other uses.
- Review and analysis of existing state laws regarding land use and farmland preservation and the laws’ strengths and weaknesses.
- Data illustrating how widely the programs are used and their fiscal impact on the state.
- An overview of land use planning tools commonly used to preserve farmland.
- A look at farmland preservation policies and tools used in other states, and how those models might be useful for Minnesota.
- Recommendations for streamlining and strengthening current programs.
- Recommendations of tools that can be used to establish a cohesive state framework for preserving farmland, while still allowing local communities to ensure the programs make sense for them.
Minnesota is home to some of the most fertile farmland in the world, and has steadily been losing that farmland. Between 1982 and 2010, the state lost at least 808,456 acres of farmland and 13,382 farms. Losses in the metropolitan area have been especially significant. While the state has lost farmland, the demands for that land have increased significantly. See the report at www.flaginc.org
MPCA Board seeks ag member
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is seeking a member to the Board of Directors that is a “Agricultural Representative”. The appointment is made by the Governor and has a compensation of $55 per diem for members. The agency shall meet the variety and complexity of problems relating to water, air and land resources of the state consistent with the maximum enjoyment and use thereof in furtherance of the welfare of the people. The nine members must include one member who is a representative of labor and one member who is a representative of agriculture. The agency commissioner is chair of the Board. Meetings are held monthly. There is no set meeting location. Members who are interested should contact me or check the Secretary of State’s website for an application.
That is all for now, as usual questions, comments and complaints to me!
Thom Petersen, Director of Gov’t Relations, MN Farmers Union