Notes from MN Farmers Union 3-16-09
Notes from the Minnesota Farmers Union Monday March 16th, 2009
Johnson elected NFU President
MFU delegates elected Roger Johnson, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner, as the new National Farmers Union President at the 107th National Farmers Union Convention in Washington, D.C. this past week. "Roger grew up in the Farmers Union family," said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President, "so it is fitting that he was elected as our National President. I look forward to working with him in promoting the Farmers Union agenda, and pushing for policies that better family farmers and rural America."
Johnson grew up in Farmers Union, participating in the organization's youth programs, serving as a county president and chairman of the board of a local Farmers Union cooperative. A third-generation family farmer from Turtle Lake, N.D., Johnson was elected North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner and recently served as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, playing a key role in the crafting of the 2008 Farm Bill.
Members return from convention
MFU members recently returned from the NFU Convention, and for meetings with Minnesota Senators and Representatives in Washington, D.C. During the convention, a variety of policy makers gave the audience an update on agriculture policy and took questions from the convention attendees. Speakers included: Tom Vilsack, United States Department of Agriculture Secretary (USDA); Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 8th), Speaker of the House; Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee; Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee; Representative Collin Peterson, (D-MN 7th), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee; Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD At Large); and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3rd), Chairwoman of the House Agriculture-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee. MFU delegates elected Roger Johnson, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner, as the new National Farmers Union President; drafted the NFU policy, and adopted several Special Orders of Business.
Convention special orders
The Special Orders that passed were: calling on policy makers to consider the unique challenges facing rural America when debating the nation's health care system; calling on Congress and the administration to take all appropriate actions to sustain family dairy farmers through the current period of economic uncertainty; urging that agriculture's role in renewable energy production and combating climate change be expanded; for protecting and promoting a competitive marketplace for independent family farmers; calling on the Obama Administration and Congress to pursue the fair trade policies that include addressing the differences in labor, environmental and health standards and the trade-distorting affect of currency manipulation and cartelization of agricultural markets; calling on Congress and the Administration to recognize the vital importance of maintaining a strong agricultural sector in the United States; and urging USDA officials to implement the programs in the 2008 Farm Bill as Congress intended. To read the NFU policy for 2009, and the Special Orders, go to www.nfu.org/about/policy .
Peterson attends meeting at the White House
MFU President Doug Peterson joined other members of the NFU Board of Directors last Wednesday when they met with White House and administration officials to discuss the organization's 2009 policy positions, approved by NFU's membership Tuesday. Topics of discussion included President Obama's fiscal year 2010 budget proposal, expeditious implementation of the 2008 Farm Bill, the opportunities of expanded renewable energy production and agriculture's role in being part of the solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
NFU calls on Trade Rep. to defend COOL
National Farmers Union joined 13 organizations Friday in urging the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to defend mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) against World Trade Organization (WTO) challenges. The organizations submitted comments to USTR following a February 17, 2009 request in the Federal Register. Under the United States' existing WTO commitments regarding mandatory COOL requirements, USTR received requests for consultations from the governments of Canada and Mexico in December 2008. The two foreign governments contend the 2008 Farm Bill, which mandates retail-level labeling of meat, produce, nuts and poultry, violates existing WTO obligations. NFU and the other organizations, all long-time supporters of mandatory COOL, urged USTR to vigorously defend the law at the WTO.
Fall Fly-in, convention dates set
The NFU fall fly-in to Washington, DC will be held Monday, September 14-Wednesday, September 16. The 2010 NFU convention will be held Saturday, March 13-Tuesday, February 16 in Rapid City, South Dakota. If you are interested in the fall fly-in contact me to be added to the interested list.
2009 Organic Farm Directory
Certified organic producers located in Minnesota have until March 31, 2009 to apply for a free listing in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's (MDA) 2009 Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms. MDA Organic and Diversification Specialist Meg Moynihan says that farmers can use the directory to identify market opportunities, to contact other organic farmers, and to form marketing alliances. The directory is intended for farmers who sell in quantity to organic food manufacturers, marketers, brokers, dairy and other livestock farms, grocery stores, restaurants, and other food service operations. To apply for a listing in the 2009 Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms, visit the MDA website at www.mda.state.mn.us/food/organic or call 651-201-6012. The directory will be available in print and on the MDA website in April.
Pelosi backs higher ethanol blend
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday at the NFU convention that she supported a higher ethanol-to-gasoline blend rate as a way to reduce reliance on petroleum imports.
"It seems to me we should be able to do that," Pelosi told reporters after speaking to the convention. At present, gasoline may contain up to 10 percent fuel ethanol, made mostly from corn (maize). An ethanol trade group asked the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday to allow blends of up to 15 percent ethanol in motor fuel. Asked about raising the ethanol cap, Pelosi, a California Democrat, said "I hope so" and pointed to the goal of more domestic fuel production. Earlier in the day, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the NFU that he believed the government could move "fairly quickly" to a 12 percent or 13 percent blend as an interim step. House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson, Minnesota Democrat, said, "I think we're going to 13 percent."
Walz sends ethanol letter to Vilsack and Jackson
Rep. Tim Walz has sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging them to support our struggling ethanol producers by providing a waiver pursuant to section 211(f)(4) of the Clean Air Act and expand use of an ethanol - gasoline blend across the country from 10% to 15% by volume. Walz says in the letter that "If the E10 mandate remains in effect and ethanol prices continue to be depressed, we could lose a critical opportunity that may have long range implications for our energy future." Walz cites extensive university research conducted across the country that has pointed to the added benefits of higher blends of ethanol. A research report conducted at Minnesota State University - Mankato along with the University of Minnesota, the State of Minnesota and the Renewable Fuels Association concluded that motor vehicles operating on a 20-percent blend of ethanol fuel will perform as well as those running on 10-percent ethanol or gasoline. The tests also found that using the higher E-20 ethanol blends did not cause significant problems for a wide range of materials, including metals, plastics, rubbers and fuel pumps used in vehicle fuel systems. To review this study, please visit www.mda.state.mn.us/renewable/ethanol/default.htm
Subcommittee hears about animal ID
From Reuters: Last week, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry held a hearing to review animal identification systems. Representative David Scott of Georgia is the Chairman of the Subcommittee. "After five years of throwing over $100 million at a voluntary system, we are still in pretty much the same place," added
Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota. "Even worse, many of the crucial aspects of the program show little promise of ever being substantially implemented. Agency staff has told us that the program as currently structured would never be effective in providing the country with a reliable trace-back system. The stakeholders out there need to get together and resolve their differences, a mandatory animal ID system is crucial in order to avoid the economic consequences of a major animal disease outbreak."
NAIS is a state-federal-industry partnership that is overseen by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection service. The Committee heard testimony from three panels of witnesses representing agency administrators, producer groups, and foreign agricultural officials. Written testimony provided by the witnesses is available on the Committee website: http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/index.html. A full transcript of the hearing will be posted on the Committee website at a later date.
Senate moves Green Acres legislation
The Senate acted last week on Green Acres by inserting language addressing many of if not all of MFU's concerns regarding the issue into HF392 . The legislation returns the payback to 3 years, allows for conservation lands, clarifies land that is "impractible" to split, and addresses "trigger" payback issues. The legislation also creates a new program called the "Land Conservation Property Tax" program that sets parameters for so-called "non-productive" land. The bill will be acted upon by the Senate today and then sent to the House for consideration. Members who have questions should contact me.
Tuesday night March 17th, room 10, the House Tax Committee will hear all of these Green acres bills, MFU will testify on the special orders set at our annual convention in November regarding the subject, checkout this line-up:
** Bill order subject to change **
HF10 (Doty) 2008 Green Acres law changes repealed
HF78 (Eastlund) 2008 Green Acres law changes repealed
HF99 (Atkins) Minnesota Land Conservation Property Tax Law created.
HF153 (Davids) 2008 Green Acres Law changes repealed
HF184 (Dettmer) Green Acres law 2008 changes repealed.
HF216 (Faust) Minnesota agricultural property tax law modified
HF217 (Faust) Minnesota agricultural property tax law modified.
HF338 (Kalin) Minnesota agricultural property tax law modified, and new property tax law classification established for preservation and legacy land.
HF340 (Hosch) Minnesota agricultural property tax law modified
HF341 (Dettmer) Minnesota agricultural property tax law modified.
HF350 (Demmer) Minnesota agricultural property tax law modified
HF387 (Bruce Anderson) Green Acres Law 2008 changes repealed
HF540 (Koenen) Rural vacant land assessment provided, and recapture modified that applies to certain property in the green acres program
HF634 (Kulick Jackson) Minnesota agricultural property tax law modified, new property tax classification established for preservation and legacy land, and property valuation modified.
HF635 (Hosch) Green acres program 2008 changes delayed by one year.
HF 571 authored by Rep. Brita Sailer would authorize "mini truck" operation on streets and highways and establishes regulations for their registration and use had a hearing this past week. I have had several legislators ask me about this bill, and I don't know much about it, but apparently some farmers use "mini-trucks" for their operation. I would like some feedback from members on this idea, or if you know someone this would affect. Checkout bill at: hf571 . Sen. Dan Skogen has the Senate companion.
Families planning late summer trips to Minnesota resorts or the state fair can book their reservations. In a 13-11 split, the House Finance Committee nixed HF195, which would have lifted the statewide ban on a pre-Labor Day school start this year and next. But it drew strong opposition from the resort industry and state fair advocates. Its Senate companion, SF22, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood), awaits action by the Senate Education Committee. MFU thanks many members who weighed in on this issue with concerns about the state fair, and other issues.
Senate releases budget plan
The Minnesota Senate released there budget plan last week, and it includes a $12 million dollar cut to the agriculture and veterans division, and also an unspecified plan to raise $2 million in new revenues. The House should release there plan later this week and the Governor should also release an updated budget later this week.
Horse-kill bill (resolution)
I am not sure what to call it exactly, but MFU testified in favor of SF133 last week, authored by Sen. Steve Dille, it is a resolution urging Congress to oppose federal legislation interfering with the ability of the state to direct the transport or processing of horses. Current federal legislation would do just that. Since USDA horse slaughter houses closed, horse for slaughter often end up in Canada or Mexico, where there are still processing facilities. The Humane Society of the United States testified against the legislation, which passed the Senate Ag Committee on a voice vote. Rep. Al Juhnke is the House author. You can view the bill here: SF133
Horse and other states
A similar resolution signed by Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal last week calls on Congress to avoid any legislation that would interfere with a state's ability to direct the transport or processing of horses. The bill passed the Wyoming House unanimously, and the Senate on a 25-5 vote. Prime sponsor Rep. Sue Wallis noted that the elimination of a U.S.-based horse processing market and a faltering economy has destroyed the domestic market. Meanwhile, at least two states are considering measures that would fill the horse-processing breach. In the North Dakota state legislature, a measure seeks to set aside up to $75,000 in agriculture fuel tax revenue for a study to see if North Dakota could feasibly - and legally - open a horse slaughterhouse, according to the Bismarck Tribune. And in Montana, the state House approved legislation intended to encourage construction of a horse-slaughter plant.
Bill Introductions of note:
Otremba introduced: H. F. 1579, A bill for an act relating to agriculture; changing the incidence of a dog food fee; amending Minnesota Statutes 2008, sections 25.33, by adding a subdivision; 25.39, subdivision 1.
Juhnke, McNamara, Faust, Magnus and Eken introduced: H. F. 1367, A bill for an act relating to agriculture; changing provisions of the Minnesota Noxious Weed Law; establishing a fund; providing for grants; creating an advisory committee; amending Minnesota Statutes 2008, sections 18.75; 18.76; 18.77, subdivisions 1, 3, 5, by adding subdivisions; 18.78, subdivision 1, by adding a subdivision; 18.79; 18.80, subdivision 1; 18.81, subdivision 1; 18.82, subdivisions 1, 3; 18.83; 18.84, subdivisions 1, 2, 3; 18.86; 18.87; 18.88; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 18; repealing Minnesota Statutes 2008, section 18.81, subdivision 3.
Gunther introduced: H. F. 1336, A bill for an act relating to taxation; income taxes; providing for a small wind turbine investment tax credit; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 290.
Welti; Faust; Doty; Hosch; Anderson, P.; Magnus; Juhnke; Hamilton; Eken; Brown and Shimanski introduced: H. F. 1446, A bill for an act relating to agriculture finance; appropriating money to the University of Minnesota for agricultural research and extension; requiring report.
Otremba and Koenen introduced: H. F. 1447, A bill for an act relating to higher education; establishing a veterinarian education loan forgiveness program; appropriating money; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 17.
Seifert, Magnus and Koenen introduced: H. F. 1473, A bill for an act relating to finance; authorizing construction of wind energy and ethanol fuel training facilities; amending Laws 2008, chapter 179, section 15, subdivision 5.
Senator Betzold introduced--S.F. No. 1247: A bill for an act relating to agriculture; classifying certain research, monitoring, and assessment data; amending Minnesota Statutes 2008, section 13.643, by adding a subdivision.
MFU district meetings
April 7 - 9:30 AM - Fertile --- Sand Hill Supper Club, 606 S. Mill Street (Hwy 32), Fertile, MN
April 7 - 2 PM - Sauk Centre --- Trucker's Inn, Hwy 71 and I-94, Sauk Centre, MN
April 8 - 9:00 AM - Slayton --- Country Host at Cenex, Hwy 59 & 30, Slayton, MN
April 8 - 2:30 PM - Elysian --- Mama's Mercantile, 410 W. Hwy 60, Elysian, MN
April 9 - 9:30 AM - Moose Lake --- Blue Bear Café, 300 S Arrowhead Lane, Moose Lake
That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!
Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union