Walz meets with JCC ag students
JACKSON -- Recently re-elected to his third term in the U.S. Congress, Rep. Tim Walz visited the high school agriculture classroom at Jackson County Central Friday morning to share his thoughts on agriculture, education and energy.
The Mankato Democrat serves on the House Ag, Transportation and Veterans Affairs committees, and has returned to his First Congressional District for input from constituents before heading back to Washington, D.C., to begin work on a new farm bill.
"The way we write the bills ... is by listening to people out here," Walz told the classroom filled with sophomores, juniors and a few seniors. One of the most common concerns right now is keeping young people on the rural landscape and getting them involved in production agriculture at a time when land prices are at record highs.
"The issue of food and the issue of agriculture is one of the most important things," he said. Feeding the world and fueling it with more alternative energy sources are among the top issues facing today's agriculture producers.
"The importance of agriculture in the First District cannot ever be overstated," said Walz. "This is the ninth largest ag production district in the country -- it is a huge economic driver for us."
Walz said it is his job on the ag committee to gather information from producers, find out what is working and make sure what legislators do in Washington is going to help producers "do what they do best."
Maintaining access to markets and keeping the safety net in place are crucial for the nation's ag producers, he said, adding farm payments account for just one-tenth of 1 percent of the overall farm bill budget.
Though some in Congress think farm payments should be eliminated, Walz said they are needed to ensure the nation has farmers to grow the food supply.
"A bad year in agriculture means somebody goes hungry. A bad year in agriculture means we might not have as much competition for food and then prices go up," said Walz.
After sharing some insights on the new Farm Bill, Walz took a question from senior Tanner Hummel regarding Environmental Protection Agency changes in the emissions standard. The change is forcing a Jackson business to incur more expense to upgrade the emissions controls on implements, and will in turn cause delays in filling other orders as the changes are made.
Hummel asked Walz how he would protect businesses and the communities that stand to lose if they opt to move out of the country to avoid strict EPA regulations.
Walz said EPA regulations sometimes go beyond what was intended, but the move toward greener energy is smart and creates jobs. What should have been done with the new emissions standards was to offer incentives to companies who will incur additional costs to meet the requirements.
"At the end of the day, the EPA does very good things," said Walz. "They keep lead out of our children's toys ... they keep our drinking water at a certain standard.
"Out here in ag country there's great anger toward the EPA right now -- a great amount of frustration," he added. "I don't think the answer is get rid of EPA totally, they do good things, but bring them back in from a common sense perspective and make sure that happens."
Other issues Walz spoke about during the 45-minute visit focused on the debt commission, transportation and higher education costs and health care.