Notes from the MN Farmers Union 4-27-09
Notes from the MN Farmers Union Monday April 27, 2009
MFU is again this year offering summer camps to kids across the state. "Minnesota Farmers Union campers focus on learning practical coop principles by planning daily activities to develop leadership and cooperative skills," said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President. "These youth camps provide an enjoyable setting with a rich and rewarding experience for campers of all ages." Farmers Union camp is where campers can learn about each other and their varied backgrounds. It allows for socializing in a healthy, learning environment centered on rural themes that improve their quality of life and leadership skills. Activities include campfires, costume theme nights, along with recreational swimming, nature hikes and more.
Farmers Union camp schedule is as follows:
Grades 3-5 ($70):
- June 15-19: Southern Elementary Camp at Sibley State Park, New London.
- June 22-26: Northern Elementary Camp at Lake Sarah Campground in Erskine.
Grades 6-8 ($95):
- July 6-10: Northern Junior High Camp at Lake Sarah Campground in Erskine.
- July 20-24: Southern Junior High Camp at Sibley State Park in New London.
Grades 9-12 ($95):
- Statewide Senior High Camp at Sibley State Park in New London.
For more information about the camp programs call MFU Education Director Jim Tunheim at 651.639.1223, ext. 4066 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
NFU discusses Crop Insurance
NFU President Roger Johnson said last week the continuation and improvement of risk management tools is necessary for agricultural producers to compete in today's farming environment. In testimony before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, Johnson said the goal of federal crop insurance should be to provide affordable risk management coverage to allow the continuation of an abundant and affordable food supply for America's consumers. "While America's farmers and ranchers are the best in the world, they cannot control three significant factors that impact their ability to stay in business - weather, market prices and input costs," Johnson said. Johnson also stressed the importance of the Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance (SURE) program that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. A standing disaster program has been a long-time priority for NFU. Johnson told the subcommittee NFU is committed to working with Congress to ensure producers have the ability to manage the broadest possible spectrum of production risks in an affordable and prudent manner.
NFU responds to California Low Carbon decision
NFU President Roger Johnson released the following statement Friday in response to the California Air Resources Board recent decision to implement a low carbon fuel standard. "While I appreciate California's efforts to encourage renewable fuel use through a low carbon fuel standard, today's ruling is disappointing and unfortunate - especially as we look to decrease our nation's dependence on foreign energy sources and produce more renewable fuels in the United States."There is currently no clear scientific understanding of international indirect land use impacts. Until there is better scientific certainty, and analysis accounts for all fuels including petroleum and natural gas, the inclusion of indirect effects should be delayed. "Ethanol production has a proven track record of providing real 'green jobs' in our rural communities, jump-starting the local economy. Furthermore, improved technology is increasing ethanol plant efficiency and paving the way for the next generation of renewable fuels."
Need a Job?
NFU is currently hiring four positions in its Washington, D.C. office:
- Vice President of Operations
- Executive Assistant
- Database Manager
Descriptions for each position are attached and can also be found at: www.nfu.org/about/job-opportunities. Letters of application and resumes should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the position you are applying for in the subject line. Applications received earlier will be given priority. Farmers Union members or those familiar with NFU will receive preference.
Feingold re-introduces Water bill
This is kind of long, but it is a big issue...U.S. Senator Russ Feingold reintroduced legislation recently to restore protections for waterways throughout the country that impact the drinking water of more than 100 million Americans. Feingold's Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) would ensure protections for rivers, streams and wetlands, which were long protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA), but are now in jeopardy of losing protections as a result of two recent Supreme Court cases. Since those decisions, more and more waters continue to be stripped of protections previously provided by the CWA, which became law in 1972. "The choice before us today is simple but urgent: If you support the Clean Water Act, you must also support this bill to restore the protections of the Clean Water Act," Feingold said. The CWA was enacted in 1972 to clean up and protect our nation's waters, including isolated wetlands and headwater streams, which are critical to our environment and economy. However, two controversial, closely decided U.S. Supreme Court cases, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers in 2001 and Rapanos v. United States in 2006, greatly reduced the scope of the CWA, undermining decades of clean water protections. The decisions have also led to significant confusion, permitting delays and increased costs caused by uncertainty about which waters remain protected after the court decisions. The president and members of his administration have spoken in favor of restoring the scope of the CWA. During the campaign, President Obama's campaign stated that if elected, he would support and sign into law legislation that effectively restores the historical scope of the CWA. During her nomination hearings, Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, stated that if confirmed, she would assist Congress with legislation to clarify the scope of the CWA. And in April 2008, Carol Browner, who served as the EPA Administrator under President Clinton and who currently works on climate change issues in the Obama administration, testified in support of Feingold's legislation. "Farmers were the first conservationists and they will continue to lead in protecting United States waters, which is why the Wisconsin Farmers Union is pleased to support Senator Feingold's reintroduction of the Clean Water Restoration Act," said Sue Beitlich, President of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. MFU is currently visiting with members about the issue, and comparing it to existing policy, please feel free to contact me or Doug Peterson with any thoughts or questions.
House passes Omnibus Agriculture bill
The Minnesota House last week passed its omnibus Agriculture Finance bill that also included a lot of policy provisions. From House Information Services: After incorporating several Republican amendments, (HF1122), sponsored by Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar), was passed by the House 83-49. It now moves to the Senate where Sen. Jim Vickerman (DFL-Tracy) is its sponsor. (Watch the floor session.) The amendments increased funding for veterans programs. The caveat, however, is that the proposals, as amended by Juhnke, would be funded by moving money from agriculture. Before amendments, the bill would provide over the biennium:
- $117.3 million for the Veterans Affairs department;
- $72.9 million for the Department of Agriculture;
- $42.1 million for the Department of Military Affairs;
- $10.3 million for the Board of Animal Health; and
• $5.7 million to the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute. Juhnke said the House spending target reflected an overall 6 percent cut to the agencies, which division members said is disproportional, because these agencies represent approximately 10 percent of the state's overall General Fund spending. The cuts would be mitigated by deferring state-obligated ethanol producer payments and taking money from a relatively unused GI Bill education fund. Juhnke said that overall the bill now reflects a more than 3 percent increase over the forecast base for the veteran's affairs department and for operation of the state's five veteran's homes. The Senate passed its bill 52-12 earlier.
Farmer-Lender Amendment Fails
Rep. Steve Drazkowkski was unsuccessful in offering an amendment to the omnibus ag bill that would have raised the "trigger" amount for the Farmer-Lender mediation from $5,000 to $50,000. The change had been suggested by banking lobbies, and was not supported by MFU. The amendment failed 32-99 with all DFLers present voting no, along with 15 mostly rural GOP members also voting no. MFU is committed to looking further at the trigger in the upcoming year, and Rep. Al Juhnke has suggested he may hold an interim hearing on the topic.
Ethanol producer payment amendment also fails
By a vote of 49-81, and amendment that would have cancelled the ethanol producer payments also failed as an amendment to the omnibus agriculture bill. The amendment was offered by Rep. Michael Paymar from S. Paul.
Conference Committee appointed
The Agriculture bills now move to conference committee with the House Appointing Reps. Juhnke, Otremba, Eken, Faust, and Shimanski, and the Senate appointing Sens. Vickerman, Skogen, Erickson-Ropes, Fobbe, and Dille. MFU is comparing the bills and will be discussing the likes and dislikes of the two bills that face a May 7th conference committee deadline. The first meeting will be Wed. morning at 8:30 a.m.
Tax bills moving
By votes of 68-65, and 35-31, both bodies of the State Legislature have narrowly approved their omnibus tax bills. The biggest issues in the bills are obviously tax increases that DFLers are proposing as necessary in dealing with closing the states $6.4 billion dollar deficit (or $4.6 if you count stimulus dollars). There are also several ag provisions in the both bills; the House bill contains language that changes the state bovine tb testing credit from to a grant program and would eliminate farmers from conservation programs like Green Acres and Metro and Rural Preserves for Pesticide violations. The Senate bill further modifies Green Acres changes and works to address problems with horse operations and property taxes. You can see summaries and actions here: Taxes...
Biel Re-appointed to Dairy Board
Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson has reappointed MFU member Eunice Biel to the 14-member Dairy Profitability Committee saying the committee's work is vital to finding ways to strengthen the dairy industry. Since being formed in 2007, the committee has been examining emerging issues within the dairy industry and providing the Commissioner with recommendations to increase dairy profitability and improve the industry's competitiveness. The committee has recommended the state conduct a study on the economic impact of the dairy industry on local, regional and state economies. Other recommendations include reminding eligible dairymen to take advantage of and register for the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) with local FSA offices and increasing efforts to promote Minnesota as a dairy state.
5% Biodiesel blend starts this week
Minnesota's two major refineries have begun blending 5% biodiesel into the state mix of diesel fuel in anticipation of the law passed during the 2005 session and modified in 2008 to set intermediate blending mandates of B5 by May 1, 2009 and B10 by May 1, 2012. For more info on Minnesota biodiesel, checkout: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/renewable/biodiesel/default.htm
Bill Introductions of note
Senators Sieben and Metzen introduced--S.F. No. 2105: A bill for an act relating to state government; designating booya as the official soup of the state of Minnesota; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 1.
Senator Sparks introduced--S.F. No. 2093: A bill for an act relating to taxation; wind energy production tax; modifying distributions; amending Minnesota Statutes 2008, section 272.029, subdivision 6.
Senator Sparks introduced--S.F. No. 2094: A bill for an act relating to education finance; creating a one-year transition aid payment for school districts no longer receiving wind energy production tax revenue; appropriating money.
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That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments, and complaints to me!
Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union