Notes from the MN Farmers Union 6-22-09
Notes from the Minnesota Farmers Union Monday June 22nd, 2009
MFU schedules "NO BULL" Dairy meetings
These are tough times in a tough economy, not only for banks and car dealerships, but there are hardships in agriculture as well and one of the hardest hit is the dairy sector. With high input costs and low dairy prices, it is about time some attention is drawn to the dairy crisis. That is why Minnesota Farmers Union is holding two "No Bull" dairy action sessions, to hear from dairy farmers and take suggestions as to what can be done to improve farmgate price and profit. The schedule for the meetings:
-Monday, June 29 from 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. at the Eagles Café, 31 Main Avenue North in New York Mills;
-Tuesday, June 30 from 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. at John and Kris Miller's dairy farm, 22219 East County Road 8 in Plainview (2.5 miles east of Plainview on County Road 8).
"The dairy industry is in dire straits and action by Congress is immediately needed," said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President. "After we hear from farmers, we will ask Congress to act on behalf of dairy farmers. It is unfortunate that society is often times not even concerned about the people that put food on the table, and we are hoping that these meetings will be a step in the right direction in changing that!"
Local and federal officials have been invited to attend the "No Bull" dairy action sessions.
NFU Statement of Climate legislation
NFU President Roger Johnson last week told the House Agriculture Committee NFU could not support climate change legislation, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, as passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Johnson made the following statement. "If the legislation approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee is not improved with regard to agricultural offsets, National Farmers Union will urge members of Congress to vote against the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009."NFU has been proactive and constructive throughout the legislative process and would very much like to support climate change legislation. However, the Energy and Commerce Committee failed to adequately address any of our priorities. "NFU policy supports a national, mandatory carbon emission cap and trade system to reduce non-farm greenhouse gas emissions if the U.S. Department of Agriculture is granted control and administration of the agriculture offset program, early actors are recognized, no artificial cap is placed on domestic offsets, carbon sequestration rates are based upon science and producers are permitted to stack environmental benefit credits."It is my hope Chairman Peterson will be successful in producing a comprehensive amendment to resolve our concerns before the bill moves to the House floor."
NFU: Anti-Trust Laws must be enforced
NFU said this past week the enforcement of agricultural antitrust laws has been nearly nonexistent for the past decade, leading to expedited consolidation and concentration within nearly every sector of agriculture. In a letter to Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) Administrator Dudley Butler, the NFU Board of Directors said it is GIPSA's responsibility to maintain fair trade practices in the marketing of livestock provide financial protection for participants in livestock transactions and ensure open competitive marketing conditions for livestock and meat. "It appears farmers and ranchers have been fighting anti-competitive practices with one hand tied behind their backs," the board wrote. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) have both found GIPSA has failed to meet its responsibilities. "America's independent farmers and ranchers are looking to you reverse the history of inaction at GIPSA," the board wrote.
Food Safety legislation
MFU has had a lot of inquiries from members regarding Food Safety legislation that is currently making its way through congress. NFU is urging that farmers and ranchers be considered as food safety legislation makes its way through Congress. In a letter to House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman and Ranking Member Joe Barton, NFU President Roger Johnson said, "In order to successfully reform our broken food inspection system I urge you to engage the agricultural production sector."
NFU policy supports a new, fully funded, regulatory body to oversee the U.S. food system; the creation of a single food agency to regulate the food supply as a whole, including imported foods; and mandatory recall authority for the regulatory body in the event of a food safety outbreak. Johnson expressed concern that the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, currently before the Energy and Commerce Committee, would have an adverse impact on farmers and ranchers across the country. "A punitive approach for traceability, penalties, inspections or other factors seeking to improve food safety is unlikely to yield successful results," Johnson wrote.
MFU supports Walz legislation
MFU President Doug Peterson this past week sent a letter to Rep. Tim Walz supporting two pieces of legislation that he is working on. Both "The Wind Energy Promotion Act" which would permanently expand the eligibility criteria for the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit, which currently only applies to passive income and the "The Renewable Energy Project Grant Extension" which will extend the temporary wind-energy provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are excellent provision to help wind energy projects and address issues farmers have had with "passive" income.
The Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition has announced that all DFL House members of Congress from Minnesota are now co-authors on 2009 Trade Act authored by Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME). The Trade Act defines a more balanced way to expand trade. It maps out a fair path forward, explaining what we can all support in a good agreement. MFU has been supportive of this legislation and met with Rep. Walz recently to discuss trade. MFU thanks Reps. McCollum, Ellison, Oberstar, Peterson and Walz for being co-sponsors. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is the Senate co-sponsor.
Clean Water Act passes Senate Committee
This past week the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 12 to 7 today to advance an amended Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) to the full Senate. Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) clarified through an amendment to the original Feingold bill that broad, existing Clean Water Act exemptions for agriculture and forestry were to be retained. MFU supported and worked with Sen. Klobuchar and her staff to see the continuation of the agricultural and forestry exemptions, including the additional exemptions for prior converted cropland and manmade waste treatment systems.
Agriculture was held basically harmless from the recent unallotments made by Governor Tim Pawlenty. The Dept. of Agriculture will see a 2.5% cut in its admin budget. MFU is concerned about cuts to LGA and also to health care programs, many of which are used in rural areas. To see the unallotments checkout: http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/
U of M Extension Bovine tb conference
As you probably are aware, concerted efforts by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the University of Minnesota, local government leaders, and farm and hunter's organizations to regain TB-free status led to the approval by USDA of Minnesota's Split-State status in October 2008. Much work remains to be done to ensure that the state of Minnesota can transition back to TB-free status in the shortest amount of time possible. In an effort to focus on issues related to economic impacts, the status of knowledge on TB transmission, and issues associated with regulations for inter- and intra-state control and eradication of TB, U of M-Extension organized the first Minnesota Bovine TB Stakeholders conference to be held July 27th and 28th in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. For more info contact Denise Plonis at 218-327-4490 or firstname.lastname@example.org
New Carbon website
Last week NFU launched the new and improved website for information on the NFU carbon credit program, check it out at: www.carboncredit.ndfu.org
MFU will have a lot of things going on at this years Farmfest August 4th-6th in Redwood County. NFU President Roger Johnson will be attending and will be on one of the forum panels, and also new this year will be a breakfast Women's breakfast on Thursday. Checkout this link for more info: http://www.farmshows.com/ffst/index.po
Will you consider volunteering your time? We are still asking members to consider helping us out at FarmFest in early August, and at the Minnesota State Fair, the end of August. We would ask you to volunteer a half-day, or a whole day, at either event to help be a Farmers Union ambassador, to welcome people to our FarmFest tent, or State Fair building, and to talk with them about the kind of work that Minnesota Farmers Union does on behalf of family farmers and rural communities. If you can volunteer, please contact Membership Director Bruce Miller (email@example.com ).
It is not too late to register for the Second Annual Minnesota Farmers Union Golf Tournament that is being held this year on June 25, at the Sand Hills Course in Fertile, Minnesota? Last year was great, and so far, based on reports from Ken Pazdernik and Allen Torpet, things will once again be fun and we will have great attendance, and the proceeds go to support our Farmers Union youth programs. If you want more information, call Ken Pazdernik at 218-206-4499.
Do you need to reach one of your field staff members? They are available to attend county meetings, to help you do membership work, and to promote the growth of Minnesota Farmers Union. Don't hesitate to contact Membership Director Bruce Miller (651-288-4064) or them directly.
Wendell Bakker: 320-979-1472
Wayne Boettcher: 612-802-3124
Lee Johnson: 507-317-7537
Dori Klein: 507-843-4560
Ken Pazdernik: 218-206-4499
Gary Wertish: 320-826-2451
That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!
Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union