MFU’s Peterson Named 2016 Friend of Extension

Doug Peterson’s life has revolved around agriculture for as long as he can remember. The soon-to-retire Minnesota Farmers Union President has been a strong advocate Minnesota agriculture for decades. Peterson received another honor from a major agriculture group in the state, winning the 2016 Distinguished Friend of Extension award winner on Tuesday, October 4.

The  award was announced on Tuesday by Dean Bev Durgan, who said that Peterson’s advocacy “has strengthened the University of Minnesota’s ability to create a strong Minnesota agriculture.”

Distinguished Friend of Extension

Retiring Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson was named a Distinguished Friend of Extension by the University of Minnesota Extension Service this week. (

President Peterson was lauded for his support of 4-H, including visionary contributions to the Minnesota’s pioneering 4-H Science of Agriculture program and the 4-H Purple Ribbon Auction at the State Fair.

Peterson and the Minnesota Farmers Union have played an important role helping secure legislative funding for Extension to create positive impacts across Minnesota. One of the biggest impacts is the Farmer-Lender Mediation program that helps farmers facing financial challenges.

Distinguished Friend of Extension

Bev Durgan, Dean of the University of Minnesota Extension Service, presented the Distinguished Friend of Extension Award to Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson earlier this week. (Photo from extension.umn.edu)

“I’m proud to accept this award on behalf of the Minnesota Farmers Union members and in support of the hard work that the University of Minnesota and Extension does to advance family farming,” Peterson said.

Doug was always someone I looked forward to visiting with during my time as Farm Director at KLGR in Redwood Falls. He was very patient with the new guy covering agriculture and I learned an awful lot from visiting with him. Agriculture had a friend in Doug and I bet we haven’t heard the last of him on the state level. Best of luck in your retirement, Doug!

 

 

 

 

Want to see some of the things the Minnesota Farmers Union has been up to over the last year?

 

 

 

Minnesota Farmers Union, standing for agriculture and fighting for farmers (www.mfu.org)

Minnesota Farmers Union President looks ahead

2015 was a mixed bag in agriculture, and that might be a bit of an understatement.

On the one hand, production levels were good in many commodities, including a record crop for soybeans and the third largest corn crop on record. On the other hand, the prices for those commodities were not good at all. Those conflicting numbers have brought some tension back into family farming that hasn’t been seen in several years.

Farmers Union President

Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President, said agriculture was a mixed bag in 2015, and challenges are ahead in the new year. (Photo from www.myklgr.com)

“Family farming, as a whole, had a pretty good year in 2015 as far as yield,” said Doug Peterson, the Minnesota Farmers Union President. “Prices went to hell in a hand basket, and that puts a lot of edginess back into farming.

“Prices were good for a number of years, but now when inputs haven’t gone down and prices have, that brings challenges in the balance sheets,” said Peterson. “As a result, there may some changes in loaning procedures by local banks because they’re scared.”

Peterson feels the future of agriculture is still good, and the Farmers Union spent some time traveling around the world for a firsthand look.

“We participated in the World Farmer Organization (WFO) General Assembly in Milan, Italy,” Peterson said. “We also took part in a Food, Faith, and Farming symposium as well. We talked about family farming, the environment, and how to sustain the family farm in policy decisions.”

The overseas tour also included a face-to-face with Pope Francis.

Farmers Union President

Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson meets with Pope Francis Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Peterson and other U.S. farm leaders discussed family farmers with the Catholic church leader. (Minnesota Farmers Union photo)

“We met with Pope Francis and his Secretary of State to talk about his encyclical and making sure that family farmers were part of the focus of the Pope’s message on stewardship in agriculture,” Peterson said. “We also had a chance to speak with leadership of the Vatican about family farms.

“We talked with the leadership about the importance of stewardship and family farms,” Peterson said. “We were told that Pope Francis himself feels all religions in the world should pay attention to the stewardship and the sustainability of family farms. Family farms, and not corporations, are the ones that have the ability to feed the world.”

Vatican leadership, as well as Pope Francis, appears to be very concerned about corporate farming.

“They are very concerned, as we are in Farmers Union, about the corporate takeover of family farms around the world,” said Peterson, “and I’ve done enough traveling to see the dirty hand of multi-national corporations coming in and usurping the family farmers for profit.”

He said Mexico is a good example of the dangers of corporate farming.

“Corporations are farming land in other countries (like Mexico),” Peterson said, “and then exporting it back to their home countries.

“That brings us back to Minnesota, where we have an anti-corporate farming law,” said Peterson, “and we don’t allow foreign countries to own farmland in the state either. There are a lot of other states around us that have lost that law, and the ability to control that in their legislative process.”

The Minnesota Farmers Union and it’s President, Doug Peterson, are very concerned about corporate farming squeezing smaller family farms off their land and out of business. (photo from truthdig.com)

The Minnesota Farmers Union and it’s President, Doug Peterson, are very concerned about corporate farming squeezing smaller family farms off their land and out of business. (photo from truthdig.com)

He said North Dakota is facing a battle over corporate ownership of dairy and pork farms.

“Concentration in farming is going to be one of the top issues in the next 10 to 15 years,” Peterson said. “We need to make sure farmland stays in the ownership of family farmers.”

Vigilance will be the key because anti-corporate farming laws are always under attack, and will be again in 2016.

“Back when I was in the legislature (1991-2002),” Peterson said, “there were moves to get rid of the corporate farming law, and to allow foreign ownership of land.

“In fact, about five years ago, we had an attempt by Goldman Sachs to come to the legislature and asked to have an exemption carved out for them,” said Peterson. “We defeated that. So we’re on top of it in Minnesota. But I don’t care who you are, there’s always going to be a threat.”

He added, “It’s always going to be about other people wanting to own land. It’s no different than outside investors, nature conservancies, or outside investors wanting to come in and own land. You get it from all sides.”

The challenges of transferring land ownership can exacerbate the problem.

“Farmers have to figure out what they’re going to do to transfer their land to others,” Peterson said, “and it’s a very slow and costly process to keep family farmers on the land.”