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Capitol Chattter: Farmers take closer look at self-promotion

MORGAN -- A major focus at Farmfest, the all-things-agriculture show in southwest Minnesota, was the need for farmers to sell themselves. That is not natural. Most farmers do not like to self-promote. "We need to get our message out," state Sen. ...

MORGAN -- A major focus at Farmfest, the all-things-agriculture show in southwest Minnesota, was the need for farmers to sell themselves.

That is not natural. Most farmers do not like to self-promote.

"We need to get our message out," state Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, told a Farmfest forum audience Tuesday.

Montevideo's Kirby Hettver of the Minnesota Corn Growers' Association was part of another panel discussing threats from federal water rules that farmers fear. He said farmers need to explain everything they are doing for conservation, things such as reducing soil erosion and reducing pollutants getting into the state's water.

"Those are stories we need to tell," Hettver said.

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Experts on the panel said farm-caused pollution is dropping, one of the stories most Americans never hear.

Vice President Scott VanderWal of the American Farm Bureau said the future of farming is at risk because of federal actions, especially those dealing with water.

"Our federal government is out of control when it comes to regulation," VanderWal said.

His colleague, David Parrish, put it even stronger, saying federal officials "want to put the pressure on you to the point it is going to put you out of business."

They said part of the answer is for farmers, who made up less than 2 percent of the country's population, to work with other Americans.

VanderWal suggested Minnesota farmers follow his lead. He regularly hosts tours of his eastern South Dakota farm so those who have little agriculture connection can better understand what happens on the farm.

Lawrence Sukalski of the American Soybean Growers Association said his Brown County government collects two-thirds of its property tax revenue from farms, when it used to be a third.

"Remind your friends in the city that successful agriculture pays a lot of the property tax," he said.

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VanderWal summed up the situation as he sees it: "Public perception ... is going to determine whether we are allowed to keep farming."

Quick farm bill?

A new federal farm bill is not due out until 2018, but U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said Republicans who control Congress may opt to move that up a year.

The Minnesota Democrat said he is drawing from his time in Congress, and has not heard Republicans say anything about fast-tracking the bill. Farm commodity prices are falling so low that farmers face financial problems that could force Congress to act.

"We are going to be in another '80s situation," Peterson said, referring to the 1980s farm crisis that forced many off the land and was felt throughout the country.

Republican senators may be especially eager to help farmers, he said, because they have a smaller majority than those in the House.

GOP worries about Sandpiper

Republican Minnesota legislators are upset that the Enbridge pipeline company may drop its plans to build a new line across northern Minnesota.

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Sandpiper pipeline was supposed to carry western North Dakota crude oil to Superior, Wis., but a recently announced deal with another pipeline could mean Enbridge can drop its Minnesota plans.

Republicans blamed it on environmentalists who are fighting the pipeline, which they say goes through a fragile area.

"Unwarranted delays and general bureaucratic bumbling by our state agencies and the public utilities commission in what should be a straight-forward and timely permitting process has now put at risk hundreds of good-paying jobs for Greater Minnesota," Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, said. "Not only does this deny quality jobs to our hard working men and women in the skilled trades, but it likely may  eliminate a large new stable property tax revenue source for our school districts, townships and counties here in rural Minnesota.”

Lueck and other Republicans also worry that a pipeline replacement project, known as Line 3, also could be threatened.

"From Day 1, the Sandpiper Pipeline has been burdened with regulatory delays and barriers from the governor and his state agencies," Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, said.

"Talking with folks across the district about the Sandpiper Pipeline, it was clear that this project was a positive investment in our local economy," Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, said.  "Now, however, North Dakota and other neighboring states will see the investments that should have been in Minnesota."

Added Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston: "We need to take a long look at streamlining the permitting process to ensure that projects like the Sandpiper are reviewed in a timely manner so companies invest in Minnesota."

You don't say...

Some quotes from Farmfest, which ran Tuesday through Thursday near Morgan:

-- "I am the first line of defense against both South Dakota and Iowa." State Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, in explaining his district's long borders with the two states.

-- "Behave yourself while you are here and don't leave a mess." Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, who represents the area where Farmfest in located.

-- "Don't judge us against the almighty. Judge us against the alternative." U.S. Rep. Tim Walz talking about political candidates.

-- "You don't have warmth, you don't have crops." Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson commenting on the hot, muggy Farmfest weather.

 

Davis covers Minnesota government and politics for Forum News Service. Read his blog at http://capitolchat.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @CapitolChatter.

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