St. PAUL – Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) members from across the state participated in meetings held with the state’s congressional delegation from Sept. 20-23. The annualNational Farmers Union Legislative Fly-in to D.C.was held virtually for the second year in a row due to COVID-19 concerns.
Farmers Union members shared three main legislative issues with lawmakers:
- The need for competitive markets for livestock producers. “When I was growing up, my father had several options for marketing his hogs within 10 to 12 miles of our Kerkhoven farm,” said Josh VanDerPol, of Kerkhoven, district director on the MFU Executive Committee. “During COVID-19, our nearest buyer, who was about 20 miles away, closed due to fewer hogs coming through and staffing shortages. Now, the nearest hog buyer is more than 40 miles away from our farm and there is only one buyer.”
- The need for investment in rural and agricultural infrastructure. “Infrastructure is so important because farmers need good roads to get their products to market. In addition, there are more than 13,000 bridges in Minnesota that are structurally deficient,” said Carol Anderson, of Foley, chairwoman of the MFU Executive Committee. “The most important thing, though, in the bipartisan infrastructure package, is funding for broadband in rural Minnesota. Farmers need the internet to operate their farms, market their products and access government programs and learning opportunities. Rural hospitals use the internet for telemedicine and students use it to learn. During COVID-19, people started moving back to rural communities and working remotely, which increases vitality in rural areas.”
- The need to invest in climate resiliency. “Every day that we’re out in the field trying to earn a living from the land, we are experiencing climate change. We went from extreme rainfall in 2019 to widespread drought in 2021. It’s one of the biggest existential threats facing farmers,” said Anne Schwagerl, of Browns Valley, Minnesota Farmers Union secretary. “Lawmakers can help incentivize farmers to make changes on their farm to be more climate resilient. They can help by supporting biofuels, supporting conservation practices that store carbon and supporting research into funding for perennial crops and their markets.”
“We thank lawmakers and their staff members for meeting virtually with us during the NFU Legislative Fly-in,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “It’s great to connect our members with their federal representatives and their staff members to share stories and talk about where the federal government can help strengthen rural communities and family farms.”