Minnesota Farmers Union releases report on Rural Voices Discussions

ST. PAUL – Recently, Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) held seven Rural Voices Discussions across the state.

The Rural Voices Discussions were listening sessions, giving family farmers and rural residents the chance to speak honestly about what is on their minds with MFU, officials from the Dayton administration and National Farmers Union (NFU). These followed on the 16 discussions MFU held in 2017.

MFU, a grassroots family farm organization, discovered that many of the issues raised at the 2017 Rural Voices Discussions were also brought up at the 2018 ones. Attendees expressed frustration that things in rural America had not changed.

“After hearing from farmers and rural Minnesotans at the Rural Voices Discussions, we are deeply concerned that their needs are not being addressed,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “In particular, the high costs of health care and rural infrastructure, including rural broadband, are issues we want to see action on soon.”

“Farmers and rural Minnesotans want the same things we all want,” said Minnesota Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Matthew Wohlman in response to the report. “They want accessible and affordable health care, good schools for their kids, efficient and safe transportation infrastructure and access to broadband internet. We also know there is a growing need to provide financial and mental health assistance to many rural families due to the poor farm economy. The Legislature should pass the proposed MinnesotaCare Buy-In, $35 million in funding for the Rural Finance Authority and increase funding to close the gap in mental health services for farmers and rural communities.”

MFU supports the MinnesotaCare Buy-In option that has been proposed.

“We understand and empathize with farmers’ concerns about high health insurance costs and limited access to providers in rural areas,” said Minnesota Assistant Commissioner of Human Services for Health Care Nathan Moracco. “The proposed MinnesotaCare Buy-In addresses both of these critical issues that have been a burden for so many Minnesotans. The buy-in would allow families to buy insurance at rates an estimated 28 percent lower than commercial plans – and in most cases, they could choose and keep their preferred providers.”

MFU also supports the use of increased public funds to bring more high-speed broadband services to rural areas.

“Access to high-quality broadband allows businesses in rural Minnesota to be part of the world economy; youth to complete homework and participate in educational programs; and farmers to better manage their operations,” said Danna Mackenzie, Executive Director of the Office of Broadband Development. “Broadband levels the playing field for all Minnesotans, regardless of where they are located throughout the state.”

MFU thanks officials from the Dayton administration and NFU who took time to attend the Rural Voices Discussions and listen to rural residents’ concerns.