Farmers Union County Convention

Thursday evening, after doorknocking, I went to the Farmers Union Rice County Convention. Farmers Union PAC has endorsed me in the 25B race. Some of their priorities last session were promotion of a “seed saver” bill, a lower percentage of permanent easements in the CREP program,ethanol and biodiesel manufacturing and use, restriction of alien ownership of dairy farms, elimination of the “Livestock Friendly Counties” designation. They’re very visible at the capitol and have some accomplishments to crow about, including legislative successes and broadening their outreach, all of which means a stronger voice for family farmers in St. Paul. I’m proud to have the Farmers Union – PAC endorsement.

I subscribe to the Center for Rural Affairs newsletter and was encouraged to see a number of the issues they promote coincide with the Farmers Union agenda. Both were represented at a Rural Legislative Forum I attended in Sioux Falls some time ago. In its October Newsletter, CRA says, “The National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture is sponsoring a sign-on letter to urge Congress to make agricultural competition and market concentration top priorities as Congress crafts agricultural legislation next year.” The letter calls for enactment of:

* Prohibition on Packer-Owned Livestock
* Producer Protection Act
* Transparency/Minimum Open Market Bill
* Captive Supply Reform Act
* Clarification of “Undue Preferences”
* Closing Poultry Loopholes in the Packers & Stockyards Act
* Bargaining Rights for Contract Farmers
* Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling

CRA’s theme behind these measures is that “today, a small handful of corporations overwhelmingly dominate the nation’s food supply. The market control of the top four firms in food retailing, grain processing, red meat processing, poultry processing, milk processing, and nearly every category of food manufacturing is at an all time high.” The Center is assisting the Campaign to gather signatures. See the sign-on letter on their website or contact Traci Bruckner, for more information.

The Land Stewardship Project is also a signator of the letter and count me as a member, have been for decades.

At the Farmers Union meeting,

Doug Peterson spoke about their accomplishments, both at the state and federal level. They’ve encouraged member participation and are seeing the results at the capitol, where legislators are asking on the floor “What does Farmers Union think about this” and where they’ve been asked to present testimony on important bills. When I spoke, last year’s retiring Rice County Farmers Union President, Gene Werner, said it was the best political speech he’d ever heard — I know from our doorknocking talk that we view things very differently, so I took this as a great complement (and we’ll both admit that I was graded on brevity, not content!). The group held its annual meeting, formatted much like a DFL convention, where they debated resolutions and elected the new year’s officers, so I left them to do their business. Stephanie Henricksen will replace Werner as the President, Dean Franzen is now the Vice President, and Paul and Mary Donkers remain Treasurer and Secretary, respectively. I look forward to working with them in the coming session – only one day of suspense to go!

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