Minnesota Farmers Union full board hears from lawmakers, elects new secretary

ST. PAUL – Members of Minnesota Farmers Union’s full board (MFU) heard from elected officials and elected a new state secretary at their February meeting.

County presidents from across the state gathered in St. Paul Saturday for their biannual full board meeting, which was conducted in-person and via Zoom. Members listened to several reports, including a legislative update and the latest on the Farmers Kitchen + Bar remodeling.

Members were updated on meat cutting classes, set to begin this fall at Ridgewater College and Central Lakes College. Recruiting is underway for the one semester course aimed at augmenting the state’s meat processing workforce. Expanded access to processing is one of the organization’s special orders, a priority of members.

There was also discussion of the national Fairness for Farmers campaign, aimed at revitalizing competition in the agricultural sector. At their August meeting, the full board voted unanimously to send a letter to Minnesota’s congressional delegation opposing the acquisition of Sanderson Farms by Cargill and Continental Grain Company. At this meeting, the board learned that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., cited the MFU letter in a letter she sent to the Justice Department calling for the department to open an investigation into the impact of price-fixing and consolidation in the poultry sector. Cargill and Continental Grain announced a deal to acquire Sanderson Farms, the nation’s third largest poultry producer, for $4.53 billion in August 2021.

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., said the competition laws on the books haven’t been enforced and as a result consumers are paying more, and the farmer’s share is shrinking. According to National Farmers Union, the farmer’s share of every dollar consumers spend on food has fallen from 50 percent in 1952 to less than 16 percent today. Smith is also looking ahead to the next fall bill. She’s taken the lead on energy issues, and she will also continue to push for further adoption of biofuels.

The board heard from Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, who predicted there would be a tax bill this year and talked about his work to increase the ag-to-school tax credit on agricultural land and his continued advocacy for the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit (BFTC), a MFU priority issue.

Minnesota’s Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Andrea Vaubel talked about the agency’s efforts to monitor and prepare for highly pathogenic avian influenza as well as ongoing preparations for African swine fever.

The board elected Missy Bakker Roach as secretary of the executive committee. Roach, who farms in St. Louis County, replaces Anne Schwagerl, who was elected MFU’s vice president in November.

“I always knew that I wanted to be involved in farming. For a kid that grew up in South Minneapolis, it was hard to imagine what farming would look like for me, or even how I could do that,” Roach said. “I had the opportunity to live in Fairbanks, Alaska, and work at a greenhouse.  It was there I discovered a thriving farmers market and local food network. That was how I discovered a path for my own farm dreams. Moving back to Minnesota, I wanted to continue to be involved in farming and local food. I joined Minnesota Farmers Union and it has been the farm advocacy home I was looking for. I am excited to learn more about our diverse Minnesota farms and serve the Minnesota Farmers Union, lending my voice in shaping the landscape of agriculture in Minnesota.”

And lastly, the MFU-owned restaurant, Farmers Kitchen + Bar, is closed for a phase two renovation, with plans to reopen Feb. 25. The renovation will include the replacement of the stainless steel bar with a wooden bar.

“It was good to welcome the county presidents to St. Paul,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “It was also good to hear from Sen. Smith, Rep. Marquart and Deputy Commissioner Vaubel. MFU is a member-driven organization and I look forward to these opportunities to sit down with members and hear their concerns.”

About Minnesota Farmers Union

Minnesota Farmers Union works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. MFU is a nonprofit membership-based organization. Membership is open to everyone. Learn more and join at www.mfu.org, and follow MFU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Working for Farmers (www.mfu.org).