Faribault County Farm Family of the Year

“There’s been a lot of changes in agriculture,” said Duane Erich, a farmer from the Blue Earth area, who began farming full time in 1967.

Duane and his wife, Joyce, have been selected as the 2014 Fairbault County Farm Family of the Year.  Farming has been a part of Duane’s life since growing up on the family dairy farm with his parents and two younger brothers.

“I grew up working on my dad’s dairy farm, which was only about three miles from where I live now,” said Erich. “We usually milked 20 or 30 cows.”  He said, “It was a great experience growing up on a farm.”  Erich said the work ethic he learned during those years was the biggest factor in any success he’s had in life.

The Erich family receives it’s Fairbault County Farm Family of the Year award at the Fairbault County Fair (photo courtesy of the U of Mn Extension Service)

The Erich family receives it’s Fairbault County Farm Family of the Year award at the Fairbault County Fair (photo courtesy of the U of Mn Extension Service)

The Erich’s raise corn and soybeans on their 1,300-acre farm in Fairbault County, and they feed out roughly 300 cattle a year.

Erich said he’s known they were the County Farm Family of the Year for about a month now.  “The Extension Office in Blue Earth called and talked to my wife, and she accepted.  Then I came in, she told me, and I said they must have been running out of names,” said Erich.

“The Fairbault County Fair was last week, and we got our award there,” said Erich.  “When the kids heard we were getting this at the County Fair, they all came home.  All three kids brought their spouses, and we had a good time.”

The oldest Erich sibling, Tim, had the shortest trip home to Blue Earth, as he lives in Mankato.  The other two children had a significantly longer trip to get back home.  “Jon, he’s in Florida at the moment, and Mary is in Nevada,” said Duane.

Duane said agriculture has changed a great deal since he began full-time farming in 1967.  “There’ve been a lot of big changes,” said Erich.  “The prices of our inputs, the prices of our machinery, crop yields have increased, and there’s been a lot more government regulation too.”

There have been a lot of positive changes too.  “Herbicides are a lot better thank what we had then,” said Erich.  “The only herbicides we had back then were a hoe and a cultivator.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farm reporter needs your opinion

I’ve come across an interesting story that would seem to be straight out of an episode of your favorite TV drama.  In this case, it’s not in a big city or major metro area; it’s in a small county in southeast Minnesota.  There are some pretty serious accusations of misdeeds in Wabasha County.

The former county Livestock Permitting Officer, Troy Dankmeyer, is accused of fudging some paperwork, and in the process, many thousands of dollars in grant money has disappeared.  The strange thing is, there doesn’t seem to be any interest from county officials to find Dankmeyer or the missing money.

Now, after a Board of Water and Soil Resources investigation, the County has been fined approximately 120,000 dollars, and who will end up paying that fine?  Plus, 90,000 dollars in grant money is being withheld from farmers in the county while the investigation continues.  Citizens are just now starting to ask questions, but overall, not a lot appears to be known in the county about the situation.

I’m at the tail end of a Master’s in New Media Journalism course, and I’ve chosen this story as my thesis topic.  I need to know which of these story angles grab your attention and would make you have to sit and read the story to find out the juicy details.  Give me your opinion on what would make you want to read this story and why:

Do you have ideas of your own you’d like to share?  Please email me at ChadSmith1@fullsail.edu, or send me a message on Facebook.  I would really appreciate some opinions and feedback from folks like you!

 

Propane supply replenishing after a rough winter

 

 

Did you know that propane is a key fuel in the United States, as it heats over six millionPropane pic 2 homes in the winter?  According to philly.com, it’s vital to American farms as well, because it runs grain dryers after a wet fall harvest season, and it keeps livestock barns all over the country warm too.

According to reuters.com, propane is becoming a key component on the nation’s farms at the other end of the growing season.  After finishing spring planting, more and more farmers are using propane to power their irrigation equipment, and they’re having success doing it.  Farmers are reporting a significant decline in the amount of fuel they need, which in turn saves them a lot on their overall cost of fuel.

However, philly.com reports that after a brutal winter in the Midwest and Northeast USA, there are questions about the supply of propane.  Despite the fact that the nation produces more propane than it can consume domestically, there was a big shortage of propane during the winter heating season.  The shortage was so bad, 30 states declared emergencies, and loosened certain trucking restrictions on propane deliveries from other areas.  Governments boosted heating aid to low-income residents, and propane dealers were forced to ration the fuel.

Several factors contributed to the shortage.  Field to Field talked with a couple gentlemen who are deeply involved in the propane industry.  Mark Leitman is the Director of Marketing and Business Development for the Propane Education and Research Council, and Phil Smith is the lead energy salesman for the Aurora Cooperative in Nebraska.  They both called last winter a “perfect storm” for the propane industry, and feel the supply will be enough for next winter, and in the years ahead.

 

A farmer works on a propane irrigator engine (Photo from Alexis Abel, Public Relations Council at Swanson Russell)

A farmer works on a propane irrigator engine (Photo from Alexis Abel, Public Relations Council at Swanson Russell)

 

 

 

 

 

The Rochester Farmer’s Market is up and running

“If you stop at the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market, chances are good you won’t need to hit the grocery store to fill out your shopping list,” said Dave Kotsonas, the Market Manager at the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market.  “If it’s in season in Minnesota gardens and farm fields, you’ll find it at the Farmer’s Market.”

The Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 7:30am to Noon at the corner of 4th Avenue SE and 4th Street, featuring produce and so much more (Photo by Chad Smith/Full Sail University)

The Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 7:30am to Noon at the corner of 4th Avenue SE and 4th Street, featuring produce and so much more (Photo by Chad Smith/Full Sail University)

The Market is open Saturday mornings from 7:30 until noon at the corner of Fourth Avenue Southeast and Fourth Street in Rochester. It operates rain or shine, until the last Saturday in October.  The Market will be expanding hours of operation and locations in June, so check out the website for a complete schedule breakdown.

The goal of the Farmer’s Market is to support sustainable agriculture and the family farm by providing a well-organized retail marketplace for farmers to sell their goods, and thereby improve the relationship between farmers and the non-rural community.

In addition to the edible products, you’ll find a wide variety of craft items.  At different times of the season, you could see things like dried flower and plant arrangements, spun sheep’s wool and woven wool rugs, dried gourd art, wooden toys and whirligigs, goat’s milk soup, and even beeswax candles.

Readers in a Minneapolis Star Tribune reader’s poll chose the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market as the 2014 Farmer’s Market of the Year.

Here are a few of the sounds of the Farmer’s Market:

Sounds of the Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market from Chad Smith on Vimeo.

 

Agenda 21 is either sound policy or something sinister

Agenda 21 first came into being as a “non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations regarding sustainable development” at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. The icleausa.org website says the gathering, also known as “Earth Summit,” took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  However, based on whom you ask, this document may be more than that.

The original Agenda 21 document (photo from agendatwentyone.wordpress.com)

The original Agenda 21 document (photo from agendatwentyone.wordpress.com)

 

Visit the bgci.org website and you’ll find Agenda 21 described as a “process for meeting the needs of the present generation without harming the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”  Americanfreedomwatchradio.com calls Agenda 21 an “elitist plan to control your life, demanding you do as I say not as I do.”

 

Agenda 21 is born

 

According to the un.com website, the “Earth Summit” was a first-of-its-kind U.N. Conference, both in terms of the number of attendees, and the wide-ranging scope of concerns it dealt with. The U.N. sought to help world governments redo their economic development processes, as well as limit the use of disappearing natural resources and reduce damage to the environment.

 

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the conference in Rio.  The message of the conference was “that nothing less that a complete change of thinking, in both attitudes and behaviors, would bring about necessary changes.”

 

Townhall.com notes as a result of the Earth Summit, over 170 countries signed on to Agenda 21, including then-American President George H.W. Bush

Earth Summit delegates signing the Earth Pledge (photo from the guardian.com)

Earth Summit delegates signing the Earth Pledge (photo from the guardian.com)

 

Agenda 21 and hidden motives

 

Americans Against Agenda 21 is a group based in Rochester, Minnesota, and in recent years began noticing some interesting terms popping up in their local neighborhood planning meetings.

 

Their website, aaa21.org, notes the terms included “sustainable development, open space, heritage areas, historic preservation, comprehensive managing, growth areas, and smart growth.”  The group said, “all of these terms sound good, and we thought they were things we could support.”  However, as time went by, they learned more about Agenda 21.

 

AAA21 says those “good sounding terms have a foundation directly in Agenda 21.”

More walking paths over fewer cars on the roads because of Agenda 21? (photo by Chad Smith)

More walking paths over fewer cars on the roads because of Agenda 21? (photo by Chad Smith)

 

The website notes that some readers may think it “sounds like a crazy conspiracy.”  They say, “It may sound like some crazy kook theory that the average person should just write off.”  They encourage readers to look through all the evidence on their website and make their own decisions.

 

The people behind Agenda 21

Glen Beck is a one-time political commentator for Fox News, and he offered some evidence supporting the theory that Agenda 21 is not what it seems:

 

 

 

 

Plans in motion

 

In a video posted by Jason A on Youtube.com, local communities around the country are realizing what Agenda 21 actually is:  an infiltration of local governments by globalists in the United Nations:

 

 

The “stack em and pack em” comment in the video caught the attention of Steve Roberts, a member of Rochester, Minnesota-based Americans Against Agenda 21.  He says it’s begun happening in recent years to Rochester residents.

 

“In recent years, planning department are putting increasing pressure on homeowner associations regarding an increasing number of bike paths, less and less parking, and shoe-horning multi-family developments into residential areas.”

 

He offered up the example of a new development on Fifth Avenue Southwest in Rochester.  “It’s right there, literally next door to single-family homes on all sides,” said Roberts.  “Neighborhood residents didn’t want it there, but the city said the

More multi-family dwellings and less homes in Agenda 21? (Photo by Chad Smith)

More multi-family dwellings and less homes in Agenda 21? (Photo by Chad Smith)

project owner did due diligence, and we’re going to allow it, right in the middle of a residential neighborhood.”  His allegations were confirmed in Amendment to Land Use Planning  #R2014-001LUPA, showing a medium-density, multi-family dwelling put into a residential neighborhood.

 

He offered as proof of his claims a written document that Rochester’s membership in the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives, which is a United Nations-backed organization, directly created by the original Agenda 21 document to influence local governments.  Roberts included a string of emails with then-Rochester City Planner Phil Wheeler stating Rochester’s ICLEI dues totaled $1,710.

What happens to modern Agriculture under Agenda 21? (photo by Chad Smith)

What happens to modern Agriculture under Agenda 21? (photo by Chad Smith)

 

 

“This is not going to go away,” said Roberts.

 

The americanpolicy.org website agrees with Roberts.  They say, “Isn’t Agenda 21 just a plan to protect the environment and stop urban sprawl?”  No.  They say they oppose Agenda 21 because it is designed to control every aspect of our lives.

 

How will Agenda 21 affect individuals?

 

The teaparty911.org website called Agenda 21 “a substantial attack on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”  They state Agenda 21 is designed to replace the economic and social structure of the United States, and offered up some of the “unsustainable” targets:

 

Page Number Unsustainable =We will take this away!
337 Ski runs
350 Grazing of livestock
351 Disturbance of soil surface-plowing of soil, building fences
728 Commercial Agriculture-Modern farm production, chemical fertilizers, fossil fuels, etc.
730 Any Industrial activity
730 “Human-made caves of brick and mortar (single family homes)
730 Paved and tarred roads, Railroads, floor and wall tiles
733 Technology, range lands, fish ponds, plantations or rangelands
738 Harvesting timber and modern hunting
748 Logging activities
755 Dams and reservoirs, straightening of rivers
757 Power line construction
763 Economic systems that fail to set proper value on the environment.
Will Agenda 21 mean the end of golf courses? (Photo by Chad Smith)

Will Agenda 21 mean the end of golf courses? (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

Conspiracy theory or sound policy?

 

Americans Against Agenda 21 said on it’s website, “after investigation, we found that the essential elements of this document are being supported locally, sometimes using public tax dollars.  Not only are the elements supported, they are being implemented as well.”

 

They say it’s “not remote. It’s not abstract and off in the future. It’s here, and it’s here now.”

 

They and other groups against Agenda 21 invite readers to do their own research, and form their own opinions on whether or not it’s a global conspiracy or sound environmental policy.

Farm Bill is the first step for Agriculture in 2014

American agriculture leaped over a major hurdle with President Barack Obama signing into law the 2014 Farm Bill during a ceremony at Michigan State University on Friday, February 7th.  According to the New York Times website, the Bill was several years in development, but came together early this year, adding stability to the Ag sector of the American economy.

Dairy farming is one of many areas of the economy regulated by the Farm Bill (photo by Chad Smith)

Dairy farming is one of many areas of the economy regulated by the Farm Bill (photo by Chad Smith)

 

While it was a major hurdle to overcome, it was just the first in a series of hurdles the Ag sector faces as it looks to the 2014 calendar.  Agriculture involves a very diverse group of people and organizations, but there are some common concerns listed by many of the groups, even as they celebrate a new Farm Bill.

 

2014 starts with good news

 

Kevin Paap is the Minnesota Farm Bureau President.  According to their website, the Farm Bureau calls itself “an advocate for agriculture, driven by the beliefs and policies of it’s members.” He said the Farm Bureau has been working with lawmakers to get a new Farm Bill in place, and it was a long time in coming together:

 

Chandler Goule is the Vice President of Government Relations for the National Farmers Union.  The NFU website bills it’s organization as “United to grow Family Agriculture.”  He said the Farmers Union feels it’s a good bill, and says there are a lot of positives in the legislation for family farmers, including country of origin labeling for meat products at the grocery store:

Chandler Goule of the National Farmers Union (photo from newenglandfarmersunion.org)

Chandler Goule of the National Farmers Union (photo from newenglandfarmersunion.org)

 

Renewable Fuels still a challenge

 

According to the website ethanol-information.com, the Renewable Fuels Standard is a part of “energy legislation that would set a minimum number of gallons to be used in the nation’s transportation fuel supply each year, including corn-based ethanol and biodiesel, which is soybean-based.”

Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap (photo from twitter.com/kevinpaap)

Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap (photo from twitter.com/kevinpaap)

 

According to the Biotechnology Industry organization website, the EPA recently proposed slashing the mandated amount of renewable fuels in the nation’s supply.  Paap said that’s simply unacceptable. “The Renewable Fuels Standard is working.  We’ve got cleaner air; we’ve got more jobs, economic development, and energy diversity.  There are over 380,000 jobs just from ethanol production.”

 

Goule said, “The rug has been completely pulled out from under the Renewable Fuels Standard.  Big oil companies don’t want us to grow our own fuel, and they don’t want to give up their share of the marketplace.” He said, “Land-grant University studies have shown the price of gas will go up without an RFS.”  Rural America will also be hit hard as well:

 

 

Immigration reform to deal with

 

Beginningfarmers.org quoted a White House report on their website, saying, “Among all economic sectors, the U.S. Ag sector is particularly reliant on foreign born workers.”  Papp said, “Agriculture hires about a million workers a year.  It’s physical labor, and it takes place in all seasons.  We need the ability to find workers when they’re needed.  Crops and livestock won’t wait for farmers to find help.”

 

He said, “The current H-2A program is not working.  It’s too costly, there’s administrative delays, and it’s got very tough recruiting requirements.”

 

Goule said many folks outside of the Ag sector don’t realize how important the immigration issue is to agriculture:

 

A lot to do yet

 

Agriculture did enjoy a big victory, but Papp said there is still a lot to do yet:

 

Goule agrees:

 

Is OSHA guilty of regulation overreach on grain bins? (photo by Chad Smith)

Is OSHA guilty of regulation overreach on grain bins? (photo by Chad Smith)

 

Bob Stallman is the President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which is the national umbrella organization for the Minnesota Farm Bureau.  He spoke recently on the Georgia Farm Bureau’s website about issues Ag will have to deal with in 2014

 

America’s livestock industry fights back against misinformation

Animal rights groups around the nation have gone on attack against livestock production facilities all over the country, and livestock farmers have begun to fight back through social media and direct interaction with consumers.

 

One of the more recent videos put out to the public by the group Mercy for Animals is available on YouTube.  It’s graphic and very offensive in nature:

 

Emily Meredith is the Communications Director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and she says what you’re seeing in videos like this isn’t the whole picture.

 

Emily Meredith, Communications Director for the Animal Ag Alliance

Emily Meredith, Communications Director for the Animal Ag Alliance

She said the Animal Ag Alliance is a “non-profit, broad based coalition of everyone in the animal ag food chain.”  The chain includes “farmers, ranchers, producer organizations, and veterinarians.”  She said the goal of the organization is to speak “with a unified voice, to the media and public about top of mind issues, which includes animal rights.”

 

The Alliance feels the real motivation for these videos are more bottom line oriented.  Meredith said “they’re trying to use these videos to fundraise.  They’re also trying to scare the American consumer into believing that their meat and eggs are not being produced humanely, which drives their vegan agenda.”

 

 

Dal Grooms is a spokeswoman for the Iowa Cattleman’s Association, and spoke to Fox News.  She said these activists aren’t in it for the animals benefit.  “Who cares more about the livestock?  The farmers who own it and make sure it’s healthy, or people that kind of stop in for a bit, and then move on to their next victim?  They’re trying to put livestock farmers out of business, and they’re trying to raise money too.”

Livestock farmers are battling back against misinformation

Livestock farmers are battling back against misinformation (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

Meredith said the food production chain has checks and balances in place to ensure that animals are treated humanely.  “There are animal welfare programs in place in each sector of the livestock industry, and buyers want to insure that farmers are following these guidelines.  If farmers are abusing animals, they’re not going to stay in business long because no one will buy product from them.”

Livestock of all kinds have come under scrutiny of undercover videos (photo by Chad Smith)

Livestock of all kinds have come under scrutiny of undercover videos (photo by Chad Smith)

 

According to msn.com, “the meat and poultry industries have begun to push back against animal activists by trying to get bills passed against shooting undercover video in production facilities.”  Humane Society of the USA California Director Jennifer Fearing said, “I wish the cattlemen actually wanted to stop the cruelty instead of the documenting of cruelty.”  Meredith said there’s more to it than that:

 

 

Meredith said farmers haven’t been vigilant in following sound hiring practices when they look for help around the farm. “They’re farmers, not private investigators,” she said. “A lot of these families haven’t been following up and checking references, so they end up hiring someone who’s seeking to destroy their way of life.”

 

The hog industry has borne the brunt of recent undercover videos (photo courtesy of www.national post.com)

The hog industry has borne the brunt of recent undercover videos (photo courtesy of www.national post.com)

“At the Alliance, we’ve encouraged farmers to do your diligence.  Check references.  Make people apply for work in writing, don’t just hire on a handshake,” said Meredith.  “A lot of farmers now make employees sign agreements that if they see abuse, they’ll report it immediately to the owner or to the authorities.

 

Meredith said there are signs that can help a farmer determine if a worker is there for hidden purposes.  “This person will be in areas they’re not supposed to be in.  They’ll be on the farm after hours in some way.  There may be complaints from other workers that they aren’t following proper procedures,” she said.  “In most cases, when the farmer starts asking questions, that activist is gone.”

 

 

The Farm Bill fight continues

Legislation In Gridlock:

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that sets America’s farming and food policy, usually in four-to-five year increments.  According to the American Farmland Trust website (http://www.farmbillfacts.org/2012-farm-bill), the Farm Bill has been around since the Great Depression.  Congress first enacted the bill to support the nation’s farmers and help maintain their land.

A Rochester, Minnesota farm sits and waits for the 2014 planting season.

A Rochester, Minnesota, farm sits and waits for the 2014 planting season.

The most recent version of the Farm Bill expired in 2012, and has been stuck in limbo ever since as Congress haggles over renegotiating the new bill.  America is beginning to feel the negative effects of not having a Farm Bill, and not just on the nation’s farms.

 

Frustrated farmers:

Michael Landuyt farms in near Walnut Grove, Minnesota, with his wife Kari and their three children.  He raises corn, soybeans, and wheat on their fourth generation farm.  They also finish roughly 1,400 livestock per year.  Landuyt said the lack of consistent farm policy does affect his business, mostly when it comes to planning for the future.

Landuyt said the lack of long-term policy “makes it hard to know what the government is going to throw at you.”  Farmers rotate different crops on different fields on a yearly basis.  That’s where long term planning comes in.   Farmers have to buy inputs, like seed and fertilizer, well in advance of the growing season.

For example, Landuyt will take one of his farm fields through a three-year cycle, planting corn the first year, corn the second year, and soybeans on the third year.  In fact, Landuyt said “I’m 90 percent sure of what I’m going to plant on my fields in fifteen years.  Therein lies the potential problem for him.

With the development of a new Farm Bill, the government could impose new regulations on his business that force him to completely change his plans.  If new regulations force him to change plans just ahead of a growing season, that could potentially mean having to purchase thousands of dollars of new inputs on very short notice, which is hard to do. “That’s where it affects me.  It doesn’t affect me today.  It doesn’t affect me next week. But it affects me two to three years down the road,” said Landuyt.

 

Farm Income is struggling:

South Dakota rancher lost thousands of livestock and millions of dollars in an early October storm

South Dakota rancher lost thousands of livestock and millions of dollars in an early October storm

One of the most beneficial parts of the Farm Bill is disaster relief for the nation’s farmers.  Never has this been more evident than the livestock disaster this year last October in western South Dakota.

One of the earliest snowstorms on record dumped massive amounts of snow in South Dakota last October.  According to a story on the Washington Post’s website (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/10/11/blizzard-lack-of-farm-bill-threatens-south-dakota-cattle-ranchers/), tens of thousands of cattle were killed when the storm swept in unexpectedly.  The storm came in so early that the livestock hadn’t even developed their winter coats yet.

A Rochester, Minnesota John Deere implement dealership is one of many businesses who feel the pinch of lower farm income

A Rochester, Minnesota, John Deere implement dealership is one of many businesses who feel the pinch of lower farm income

Thom Peterson, the Government Relations Specialist with the Minnesota Farmers Union, said a Farm Bill would have been a huge benefit to farmers.  “The freak snowstorm in South Dakota killed a lot of cattle.  No Livestock Indemnity Program means no help for ranchers who desperately need it.  That could result in farmers and ranchers going out of business.”

 

Consumers will feel it at the store:

The price of a gallon of milk is set to take a potential price jump in January

The price of a gallon of milk is set to take a potential jump in January

When farmers go out of business, the law of basic economics will kick in.  Lower numbers of crops that go into making the nation’s food supply mean a higher demand.  When food manufacturers have to pay higher costs to get the inputs they need, then the higher costs will be passed on to consumers.

The dairy industry is a good example.  With the expiration of the Farm Bill, milk prices are set to take a jump on January first because of no government subsidies.  Landuyt said if the government isn’t subsidizing the dairy industry to keep milk prices low, then consumers are going to feel the pinch at the grocery store.  He said, “The government isn’t subsidizing the dairy industry to make the farmer rich.  It’s so the farmer can sell milk for three dollars a gallon to the processor instead of six dollars a gallon, which would mean more money for consumers when they run to the store for a gallon of milk.”

 

 

The Farm Bill is more than just farming:

A recent projection of spending for the upcoming Farm Bill

A recent projection of spending for the upcoming Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is a bit of a misnomer.  More than 75 percent of the Farm Bill monies go to funding nutrition assistance programs around the country.  The food stamp program of the past is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.  The lack of a Farm Bill has Jill Martinez of Hunger Solutions in Minnesota concerned.

Martinez said as of right now, 10 percent of Minnesotans are enrolled in the SNAP program.  She said all SNAP programs  are temporarily unchanged from their previous policies.

With potential changes coming to the program with a new Farm Bill, she said, “our biggest concern is that if you need food assistance, you can get it.  We don’t want any barriers to access limited.”

 

On to January for a vote:

Tom Vilsack is the current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and spoke recently as a guest on the agriculture news show Agri Pulse (http://www.agri-pulse.com/Audio-Thursday.asp). He’s tired of waiting for a new Farm Bill:

 

Debate on a new Farm Bill, with a potential vote, is now scheduled for January in both Houses of Congress.  Meanwhile, farmers and consumers are stuck in limbo, along with the legislation that governs the food they raise and eat.

 

 

 

 

Fighting for the little guy on the family farm

 

“Nothing gets done without politics.”  Not exactly what you’d expect to hear from a 4th generation farmer, but it’s a philosophy that Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson has lived by his entire life.  He’s using that philosophy on a relentless campaign to improve the lives of farmers in Minnesota, and across the country.

 

Doug Peterson at a recent FarmFest near Redwood Falls, promoting agriculture at the Farmers Union booth (photo by: Mn Farmers Union)

Doug Peterson at a recent FarmFest near Redwood Falls, promoting agriculture at the Farmers Union booth (photo by: Mn Farmers Union)

Growing up on the farm:

Doug grew up on his father’s 300-acre farm south of Madison, Minnesota.  After his birth in 1948, he attended a one-room schoolhouse.  He spent a lot of his early childhood years at Farmers Union county meetings, where his father was the county President.  Some of his earliest memories at those meetings include “sitting in mom’s lap and riding on dad’s shoulders.”

 

A family of his own:

Doug is married to Elly Peterson, his high school sweetheart, who he began dating in ninth grade.  They have two sons, Aaron, who’s a lobbyist, and Ryan, a virologist who conducts stem cell research at Cornell University.

After graduating from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he played college football for four years, the family settled in to life at Glencoe, Minnesota, where Doug worked as an art teacher and football coach for ten years.

 

Back to the Farm:

Doug returned to the family’s 300-acre farm soon after his father passed away from cancer in 1978.  He planted his first crops on the farm in 1981, and farmed actively until 2000.  He also worked full time as a teacher in the Canby and Montevideo school districts. It was during this stretch that he began his foray into politics.

 

Off to the state Capitol:

Doug was elected to the Minnesota State Legislature in 1990.  It was there that he gained “very valuable legislative experience,” according to Minnesota Farmers Union Vice President Gary Wertish.  Doug accomplished a lot during his time in state government.  One of his biggest accomplishments was authoring a bill mandating the use of 10 percent ethanol in every gallon of gas dispensed in Minnesota, a law that is still in effect today.

 

The Farmers Union comes calling:               Farmers Union Logo                        

After serving in the Minnesota Legislature for 12 years, Doug was elected President of the Minnesota Farmers Union, a job he’s held since then.   Doug describes Farmers Union’s main purposes as Legislative and Educational.

 

His knowledge of how to play the political game is very valuable, as Farmers Union spends a lot of time at the Minnesota State Capitol, as well as Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., advocating for policies that aid farmers in doing their jobs as efficiently as possible.  Farmers Union Vice President Wertish said Doug’s political experience and personal connections have proven invaluable as they make the rounds in state and national government offices.

 

Doug Peterson speaking with a reporter during a Farmers Union Fly-In campaign to Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mn Farmers Union)

Doug Peterson speaking with a reporter during a Farmers Union Fly-In campaign to promote agriculture in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mn Farmers Union)

 

 They’re having some success at the process.  According to the North Carolina College of Ag and Life Sciences website, farmers, as a mere 2 percent of the population, produce food so efficiently that they feed the nation, and still export close to 100 billion dollars worth of their products too.

Peterson said Farmers Union is on a mission to educate the non-farming public on just what it is farmers do to produce the food on their dining room table.  He said “98 percent of our population is getting further and further removed from having direct access to any kind of farm or farming practices.”  That results in a lot of misconceptions about farming.

Clearing up the confusion on farming:

He said the biggest misconception the non-farm public has, is just how much money it takes to farm.

“If it cost you 400 dollars an acre to plant a crop, and you farm 1,000 acres, you’re looking at 400,000 dollars to plant a crop in a single year.  Most people I know don’t have that kind of money sitting in the bank somewhere as liquid assets.”

File photo of a family farmer at work (photo by Mn Farmers Union)

File photo of a family farmer at work (photo by Mn Farmers Union)

Government farm safety net payments have long raised the ire of non-farmers when it comes to agricultural practices, and Peterson said, “show me other major public investments that don’t have some kind of subsidy.  Things like roads, bridges, airlines, schools, and hospitals always have some kind of governmental help.  New businesses rarely build a new road to their place on their own.”

Farming has changed a great deal in the last few decades.  Most of the off-farm public have no idea that computers are now driving tractors.  The Farm Bill now creates roughly 16 million jobs around the country.  The average dollar spent in the farm sector turns over in the economy 7 times, according to Peterson.  In other sectors of the economy, the dollar turns over a mere two times.

 

Agriculture brings a lot to the table in the nation’s economy.  Peterson said they can’t ever quit bringing that fact to the attention of state and national legislators, and just as importantly, to the American public as well.

 

Minnesota Farmers Union 2012 Year in review: