Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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Ann Daley needs to know the "full skinny" about what is happening in her community. So she turns to her local newspaper for everything from city council decisions to where there is a taco feed. "It is local events that I like to know about," the 86-year-old woman said about what she has found in the Bemidji Pioneer since she and her husband moved to the community in 1976.
ST. PAUL — Vegetables are rotting in California because farmers cannot find enough workers to harvest them. "I need more Mexicans like you," a Kansas wheat farmer told an undocumented immigrant. It is easy to find stories about the need for farm country workers in media nationwide. At the recent Farmfest event in southwestern Minnesota, American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said immigration and lack of farm workers is the No. 1 issue in rural America.
ST. PAUL—The governor called for making the Minnesota River "fishable and swimmable" within 10 years. That was then-Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson 25 years ago. The river is in the southern half of Minnesota where scientists still say much of the water should not be used for fishing or recreation. While the southwest faces the most water quality problems and the northeast the least, experts say no part of the state is free from such issues.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota and four other states reached a $500,000 settlement with a company they say was "making abusive and harassing phone calls to increase student loan payments." Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced Friday, Aug. 11, that iQor Holdings agreed to the settlement.
ROSEVILLE, Minn. — Minnesota students appear to be maintaining mostly steady standardized scores on reading, math and science, but whites continue to dramatically outscore minority students. Test scores are not rising much, state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said Monday, Aug. 7, in releasing the annual Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test results. "It's frustrating to see test scores slowly increasing over time, but there's more to providing a student with a well-rounded education than can be seen in a test," Cassellius said.
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn.—They do not often bring in television lights for a Farmfest forum. But that is not the only unusual thing about a forum on the last day of the southwest Minnesota agriculture event: Eleven U.S. representatives featured at the forum gave brief opening remarks and then shut up (well, except for some chatting among themselves). Some testifiers appeared surprised that the congressmen actually were listening to them. To add to the unusual atmosphere, it was 61 degrees, unheard-of cold for Farmfest.
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — Many, if not most, farmers say they like what they have seen so far in how President Donald Trump deals with agriculture. Most specifically, they like him naming Sonny Perdue agriculture secretary, although some are concerned he was the last Cabinet nomination and Perdue's department still lacks many top officials. But there is a question in many minds, when it comes to Trump and Perdue. Farmer Lester Braulick of New Ulm, Minn., put it simply during the recent Farmfest: "Is he (Trump) going to let him do his job?"
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn.—Crop insurance. Organic agriculture. Young farmers. Conservation. Sugar help. Vaccine. Feeding the poor. International trade. The list started there and went on and on as 11 U.S. representatives sat through 2½ hours of ideas from Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa farmers and agribusiness people about how they should write new federal farm legislation. The only common theme the 11 heard was that they want the federal government to help agriculture.
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — Two members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee have especially strong feelings about the need to aid farmers and ranchers during disasters because their states are in an extreme drought. U.S. Reps. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, both Republicans, sat with nine colleagues as farmers and agri-business leaders from the region testified Thursday, Aug. 3, about what should be in new federal farm legislation. Many mentioned disasters, such as major crop and livestock losses.
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn.—Mike Orbeck may be lucky: He pretty much knows what his health insurance will be next year. Many of his fellow farmers do not know what to expect as federal plans to overturn health care laws failed and the state says individual health insurance policy rates should remain about the same next year, if Minnesota gets federal approval for a new state program. Recent health insurance news, sometimes conflicting and always confusing, has those who rely on individual policies worried. Farmers are a major user of individual policies.