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National Farmers Union board urges significant improvements to House Farm Bill before passage
National Farmers Union (NFU) Board of Directors has unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to the current version of the 2018 Farm Bill as passed by the House Agriculture Committee last week. The Board called on House members to make significant improvements to the Farm Bill before passing the legislation.
“The House Farm Bill (H.R. 2), as currently written, lacks the improvements needed to help farmers cope with continued low prices,” said the Board. “The bill fails to provide farmers with the tools they need to be the best possible stewards of our natural resources, and it reverses progress toward expanding access to local, regional, and specialty markets. Furthermore, it makes unnecessary cuts to programs that feed hungry Americans. National Farmers Union’s Board of Directors, on behalf of nearly 200,000 family farmers, ranchers, and rural members, opposes H.R. 2 in its current form.”
The NFU Board noted that weak commodity prices, large surpluses, and an increasingly consolidated marketplace prevent farmers from receiving fair market prices for their production. In 2018, net farm income is projected to be less than half of what it was in 2013.
“As a result, family farmers are forced to rely on price supports to sustain their operations,” the Board said. “Unfortunately, the farm safety net does not reflect the current state of the farm economy.”
NFU’s Board added that disputes with international trading partners are creating additional challenges for farm profitability that require a long-term solution. “The Farm Bill should include additional funding to offset the potential damages to American family farmers and ranchers,” it said.
The Board resolution called on House members to make the following improvements to the Farm Bill:
~ Increase PLC reference prices to improve the farm safety net and offset potential trade retaliation;
~ Strengthen payment limitations and actively engaged requirements for Title I programs;
~ Provide dairy farmers with enhanced price supports and a mechanism that manages our nation’s milk inventories to meet market demand;
~ Ensure credit availability by increasing FSA’s overall loan portfolio;
~ Maintain funding levels for consumer benefits under nutrition programs;
~ Provide an incentive-based working lands conservation program that promotes improved stewardship;
~ Restore mandatory funding for energy programs that promote development of the bioeconomy in rural areas; and
~ Reinstate mandatory funding for programs that improve access to local, regional, and specialty markets.
MFU opposes Farm Bill as proposed by the House Agriculture Committee
Recently, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, released the first draft of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Bipartisan negotiations on the bill had broken down a few weeks prior after of a dispute over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)’s work requirements. Conaway and committee Republicans decided to move forward with a partisan bill, which sets a dangerous precedent. Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said this week he opposes the bill in its current form.
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU), a St.-Paul based grassroots family farm organization, also opposes this partisan Farm Bill. MFU President Gary Wertish issued the following statement:
“Traditionally, agriculture has been an area in which both major parties work well together. Unfortunately, ideological arguments have split up that bipartisan coalition in the House Agriculture Committee.
“We urge the committee to return to bipartisan negotiations on the Farm Bill. Family farmers and rural communities will not have their needs met if the committee does not collaborate. Agriculture and rural communities do not have an adequate safety net in this bill. Cuts to the Conservation Stewardship Program, Rural Energy for America Program and local foods programs threaten resources for climate stewardship and crucial market opportunities. Farm income has declined by more than 50 percent since the last Farm Bill was written, and the House’s bill does not go far enough to stem the economic crisis.
“Additionally, efforts to weaken SNAP endangers the rural-urban joint support of the bill, which is also a danger to future Farm Bills. SNAP must be kept in the bill without adding further restrictions to America’s hungry.”
Click here for a list of suggestions from National Farmers Union on what is needed to improve the bill.
Register for MFU Women's Conference on June 30
Minnesota Farmers Union will host a Women’s Conference on June 30 at New Ulm Country Club!
Join us for a day of connecting with women agriculturalists from around the state. You will not only learn about overcoming stress, estate planning and leadership positions in Farmers Union; but you will also build relationships and empower one another. Featured speakers will be Meg Moynihan, Barbara Heen and Sarah Lloyd.
Register at mfuwomensconference.eventbrite.com. The cost is $20; however, if you invite someone else along, their registration is free of charge.
The New Ulm Country Club is located at 1 Golf Drive in New Ulm. The conference will be held from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. that day, followed by social time at the club.
MFU dismayed at trade tensions with China
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) is dismayed at the ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China. The Chinese government announced today that will impose a 25 percent tariff on more than 100 U.S. goods, including soybeans, corn and beef. This comes in addition to previous tariffs on pork, fruit, nuts and other items.
The tariffs were imposed in response to the Trump administration’s recent tariffs placed on foreign steel and aluminum.
MFU President Gary Wertish issued the following statement in response to the tariffs:
“The growing threat of a trade war with China is harming family farmers in the U.S. While we agree with the Trump administration’s desire to re-work our trade agreements, its approach has been detrimental to our relationships with our trade partners. Global trade is a vital part of the agricultural economy.
“With the current farm economic crisis, farmers can’t afford a trade war. The tariff on soybeans increases the number of farmers being affected and has brought down commodity market prices even further. We urge the Trump administration to negotiate fair trade agreements that benefit family farmers as soon as possible to remove this uncertainty from the markets.”
MFU hosting Farm Bill Energy Listening Session with staff of Sen. Tina Smith
MFU encourages members to attend a listening session on April 26 on the Farm Bill Energy Title with the staff of Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.). Smith, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is looking for perspectives from farmers on energy needs and renewable energy issues. The listening session will be held at the MFU state office in St. Paul and begin at 9 a.m. that day.
Please RSVP to MFU Renewable Energy Director Michelle Medina at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend.
The tentative agenda is as follows:
9 a.m. Welcome — Michelle Medina and Paula Sunde
9:15 VIDEO: Senator Smith Opening Remarks
9:20 Discussion—Moderator, Paula Sunde
- Program Successes
- Program Challenges
- Program Expansion
10 a.m. Tour roof solar
10:30 End of event
Farmers Union disturbed at reports that EPA issued RFS waivers to large refiner
According to Reuters, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exempted one of the nation’s largest oil refining companies from having to comply with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2016. The agency granted “hardship waivers” to three of the refiners’ operations despite the corporation’s net profits of $1.5 billion last year.
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson called the alleged actions “deeply disturbing,” noting that waiving RFS requirements for large refining corporations undercuts the effectiveness of the law. Farmers Union is a staunch proponent of the RFS and its benefits to family farmers and their communities.
“Granting waivers to large refiners directly undercuts the effectiveness of the RFS law, which was designed to increase demand for American-grown biofuels,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “‘Hardship waivers’ weren’t designed for large corporations who net billions in profit each year… Farmers Union requests EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt cease granting these waivers. The administration must uphold its numerous promises to family farmers and rural communities to support the RFS.”
In Minnesota, ethanol is a major industry, supported by corn growers dealing with a major oversupply that’s driving down the prices they receive for their product.
“Minnesota Farmers Union has supported a strong RFS for years,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “It provides another market option for corn growers and reduces the cost of fuel to consumers. We strongly oppose any measures taken by the administration to decrease the use of biofuels in our fuel supply. President Trump promised rural Americans he would uphold the RFS and must ensure that Administrator Pruitt does so as well.”
Minnesota Farmers Union members elect leadership, adopt policy at National Farmers Union 116th Anniversary Convention
The National Farmers Union (NFU) 116th Anniversary Convention concluded yesterday following the adoption of the organization’s policy book and special orders of business. Nearly 500 family farmers and ranchers convened in Kansas City, Mo., to engage in policy deliberations and celebrate family agriculture, including 37 members and staff from Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU).
Delegates to the convention adopted the NFU Policy Book and nine special orders of business that will guide the organization’s government affairs priorities over the next year, especially as they relate to the current farm economic crisis and upcoming deliberations on the 2018 Farm Bill. Delegates also reelected Roger Johnson as NFU President, and elected Patty Edelburg of Scandinavia, Wisc., to serve as NFU Vice President.
“Our members put their heart and soul into this organization and into the advocacy we do for family farmers and ranchers across the country. Our grassroots policy adoption process is the main focus of our annual convention,” said Johnson. “This year’s deliberations had a clear emphasis on providing meaningful support to farmers struggling amidst a sharp decline in profitability. Delegates also passed policy and special orders of business focusing on supporting family farmers’ ability to earn an honest living, protect natural resources, build up their communities and provide for the nation.”
“We had a strong group of delegates from Minnesota at the NFU Convention, all very engaged in building support for family farmers in this nation,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “We not only learned about the vast array of agricultural issues across the country but advocated for MFU policy as well. We need to come together to combat the farm economic crisis, and the NFU Convention is a great opportunity for that.”
MFU’s 14 delegates were Carol Anderson of Foley; Paul Benson of Mahnomen; Erik Hatlestad of New London; Scott Hilgeman of Oklee; Larry Jacobson of Hitterdal; Vice President Bryan Klabunde of Waubun; John Larsen of Mantorville; Deborah Mills of Lake City; John Nauerth III of Lakefield; Alan Perish of Browerville; Frank Turnock of McGregor; President Gary Wertish of Renville; Harmon Wilts of Kerkhoven; and Ted Winter of Windom.
Convention attendees were treated to keynote remarks from Jason Kander, President of Let America Vote, and Art Cullen, Pulitzer-prize winning editor of The Storm Lake Times. Johnson delivered his annual State of the Farmers Union address, focusing on the upcoming Farm Bill, state of the farm economy and organizational priorities moving forward. Johnson also joined a panel on the opioid crisis with American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall and U.S. Department of Agriculture Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett.
In order to provide the national organization a set of priorities for the coming year, delegates approved nine special orders of business:
Full text of the adopted policy manual will be available soon at nfu.org.
Farmers Union launches #FarmBillNow campaign
American family farmers and ranchers are enduring the worst economic slide in generations, and they need Congress to pass a Farm Bill in 2018 to strengthen the farm safety net.
In order to educate the general public and to generate support for a Farm Bill to be passed this year, National Farmers Union (NFU) and Farmers Union state divisions have developed a digital campaign, complete with a new website, a Farm Bill video, animated short videos, weekly promotions and a petition. The family farm organization is calling on Congress to strengthen programs that support family farm agriculture, vibrant rural communities, a clean environment, and hungry Americans.
“Family farmers and consumers alike are in urgent need of strong farm and food policies to be passed in the Farm Bill this year,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “As the agriculture committees ready to propose Farm Bill legislation, Farmers Union wants to be sure all members of Congress understand why the Farm Bill is so vital to family farm agriculture, our land, our rural communities, and our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. We’re hopeful this campaign can bridge the support of the entire farm and food community.”
The campaign features a 9-minute video on the importance of the Farm Bill to family farmers, the environment and consumers, profiling Farmers Union members from across the country. Three short animated videos are also being launched to help the general public understand what the Farm Bill is, what Farmers Union’s ideal Farm Bill looks like, and how to advocate for the Farm Bill. And throughout the next month, NFU will issue short policy briefs on the major components of the Farm Bill.
Family farmers, consumers, lawmakers and advocates are encouraged to share the video on social media, tweet with the hashtag #FarmBillNow, and sign the petition to call on Congress to pass a Farm Bill in 2018. Those interested in showing the videos or sharing the materials should contact Andrew Jerome for more information.
Minnesota Farmers Union calls upon Congress to keep, make permanent Section 199A in Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
In the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Section 199A provides a 20 percent tax deduction to farmer-owners of cooperatives on payments received from their cooperatives.
Recently, corporate grain companies have argued that Section 199A incentivized farmers to sell their grain to cooperatives. However, these companies have received a 40 percent reduction in the corporate tax rate. This new corporate reduction is permanent, while Section 199A is set to expire in 2025.
Farmer-owned cooperatives were formed for the mutual benefit of the farmers, not as investment vehicles for owners.
“Minnesota Farmers Union has supported the formation of co-ops from our earliest days,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “Our policy makers should ensure farmer-owned cooperatives can receive equal benefits to non-cooperative companies.”
One of the primary forces behind the formation of the cooperative system was the mutual benefit farmers would receive from the economies of scale associated with the joint marketing of their commodities. Section 199A is consistent with these principles.
Minnesota Farmers Union urges Congress to make Section 199A permanent and keep the competitive balance between corporations and cooperatives.
NFU Women's Conference an inspiring week for MFU members
We have returned from the NFU Women's Conference! The theme is "Women in Leadership" and is geared to empower women farmers to make a difference in their communities. We learned about how to join local USDA boards, women's importance in farm succession planning and why more women should run for elected offices. Plus we toured three farms in the San Diego area: Dickinson Farm, Coastal Roots Farm and UrbanLife. We made friends with agriculturally-minded women from across the country that are sure to last a long time!
Look for more about the conference in the February issue of Minnesota Agriculture.
Farmers Union urges increased funding for farm safety net, rural infrastructure in priorities for Farm Bill
Given the persistent and ongoing economic challenges in farming and rural economies, National Farmers Union (NFU) is calling on Congress to increase funding for farm programs in the Farm Bill and pass the legislation as soon as possible. The NFU Board of Directors, of which MFU President Gary Wertish is a member, recently passed a resolution to this effect, outlining requirements for a Farm Bill that family farmers and ranchers can support.
“American farmers are not only suffering from price pressure that has reduced net farm income by half over the last four years, but devastating wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters continue to punish agricultural communities,” said the Board. “Trade policies continue to promote the sale of farm products at prices below the cost of production. Farm Bill legislation in 2018 must strengthen the safety net so that farmers and ranchers can manage risk, stay in business and continue to feed our country.”
The Board laid out a series of 14 recommendations that Congress should follow to provide a sufficient farm safety net, support rural communities, protect natural resources, improve beginning farmers’ and ranchers’ opportunities for success and ensure the nation’s most vulnerable people have enough to eat.
“The Farm Bill, rightly so, touches all aspects of our food system,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “As such, Congress must write and pass a Farm Bill this year that adequately supports each part of the food system—from the family farmers who grow our food, to the land they do it on, to the rural communities they support, and all the way to the consumers who rely on safe, affordable food. Providing adequate support begins with a recognition of the dire economic conditions of the farm economy, the impacts of food production on the land, and the moral imperative of our country to ensure its most vulnerable citizens have access to food.”
Among the NFU Board’s recommendations were a set of changes to the Farm Bill’s commodity title, Title 1, which has not provided adequate relief for farmers amidst the recent, dramatic slide in net farm income. It called for “increased and robust reference prices under the Price Loss Coverage program,” technical corrections to the Agricultural Risk Coverage program, and an “incentives-based inventory management program to manage milk supplies based on market demand.” The Board also called for mechanisms to address oversupply of grain and dairy, and for meaningful assistance to cotton producers.
Recognizing the role family farmers play as stewards of our natural resources, NFU recommended a strong conservation title that provides “additional acreage under the Conservation Reserve Program,” maintains “funding for working lands conservation programs that promote active stewardship and locally led conservation activities,” and funds “climate mitigation research and technical assistance at national and local levels.”
Central also to our organization’s concerns are the Farm Bill’s impacts on rural communities. The NFU Board urged Congress to include “robust funding for programs that promote economic, infrastructure and clean energy development in rural communities,” and to prioritize development of local cooperatives.
To ensure the success of beginning and future farmers and ranchers, NFU called for implementation of programs within the farm bill that improve beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers’ and ranchers’ access to land, capital, efficiency and markets.
Finally, and of equal importance, Farmers Union called for strong nutrition programs in order to provide a safety net against hunger.
“The family farm is the keystone of a free, progressive and democratic national society as well as a strong America, and is the basis of a safe, secure, and stable food system,” wrote the NFU Board. “It provides opportunities for individual enterprise to all families in our society to achieve economic and social stability, as well as soil, water and environmental stewardship of our natural resources and unparalleled production efficiency.
“National Farmers Union’s Board of Directors, in its continued efforts to protect family farms, calls on Congress in 2018 to provide strong support and increased funding in the best interests of family farms, rural communities and consumers.”
NFU, AFBF launch campaign to fight rural opioid addiction
As farming communities face mounting challenges with the nation’s opioid epidemic, the nation’s two largest general farm organizations are teaming up to confront the issue. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and National Farmers Union (NFU) have announced a new campaign, “Farm Town Strong,” to raise awareness of the crisis’ impact on farming communities. The campaign will also provide resources and information to help farm communities and encourage farmer-to-farmer support to overcome the crisis.
The groups have launched a new website, FarmTownStrong.org, to provide easy access to information and resources that can help struggling farm families and rural communities.
The Farm Town Strong campaign comes on the heels of a recent survey commissioned by AFBF and NFU that highlighted how the opioid epidemic has hit farmers and farm workers especially hard. While just under half of rural Americans say they, a family member or friend have been directly impacted by opioid abuse, for farmers and farm workers it’s 74 percent. A strong majority of respondents also support increasing public awareness of anti-opioid resources and reducing the stigma that surrounds addiction to help solve the opioid crisis.
“Farm country has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic – even harder than rural America as a whole, or big cities,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “It’s going to take everyone working together to combat this crisis to make a difference. That’s why Farm Bureau and Farmers Union are teaming up to show unity on this issue and encourage farm families to help their neighbors. If you or a family member has been affected by opioid addiction, it’s important to talk about it so that others will know they are not fighting this alone.”
“Opioid addiction—along with all of its consequences—is a silent, but very real, crisis for our farming communities,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The lack of services, treatment and support exacerbates the issue in rural areas, and the negative stigma associated with addiction makes it hard for farmers to discuss the problem. Too often, those struggling with addiction and their family members don’t seek the support they need. Through the Farm Town Strong campaign, we’re tackling this crisis head-on by encouraging more dialogue, more information sharing, and more farmer-to-farmer engagement.”
The two organizations will also hold public events and launch a social media campaign, #FarmTownStrong, to highlight the crisis and share resources. AFBF President Zippy Duvall and NFU President Roger Johnson led a discussion on overcoming the opioid crisis at the 2018 AFBF Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Nashville, Tenn.
More information on the campaign can be found at FarmTownStrong.org.
Minnesota Farmers Union and Farmers Union Insurance Agency invest in 40 Square as viable farmer health care option
The Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) Executive Committee voted on Nov. 3 to approve the organization’s purchase of shares in 40 Square Cooperative Health Solutions, a new health care cooperative for Minnesota farmers.
MFU, a grassroots organization, has its heritage in the cooperative model. 40 Square is a relevant example of farmers forming a cooperative to collectively address a need.
“Ever since farmers in Jackson County started organizing for fairer commodity prices in the early 1910s, MFU has been a strong backer of new cooperatives,” said Gary Wertish, President of MFU. “We supported legislation passed this year that allowed Minnesota farmers and agribusinesses to form cooperatives for health care, which makes groups like 40 Square possible. We are happy to make this investment in 40 Square.”
Farmers Union Insurance Agency, an MFU-owned company serving the insurance needs of Minnesotans, is supporting the marketing efforts of 40 Square. The majority of FUIA agents have signed up to write 40 Square health care policies for their farmer customers.
“Farmers Union Insurance Agency is always seeking sustainable health insurance options for Minnesota’s farm families and their employees, and we feel 40 Square will be a viable option today and into the future,” said Rodney Allebach, President and General Manager of FUIA. “We are proud to partner with Minnesota Farmers Union and 40 Square by taking a stake in this partnership.”
MFU signs letter urging policy that supports small family farms
Minnesota Farmers Union recently signed a letter from the Center for Rural Affairs calling on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to adopt policies that address unfair contracts for farmers, increase market transparency, reform USDA guaranteed loans, and guarantee worker rights as they work on the 2018 Farm Bill. Several other state Farmers Union organizations, as well as National Farmers Union, signed the letter.
View the letter at this link: http://www.cfra.org/news/171011/congress-must-adopt-policies-support-small-farms
Successful Fly-in for Minnesota Farmers Union
The participants from the National Farmers Union Legislative Fly-in have returned after three days of learning and discussion. Minnesota sent 36 in total to Washington, D.C.
Participants had three main issues to talk to legislators about - the Farm Bill, health care and renewable fuels - as well as the Farmer's Share that NFU releases monthly. MFU's group dropped information or talked directly with all of Minnesota's Congressional delegation, plus other representatives from around the nation.
We also presented five legislators with the Golden Triangle Award, the highest honor from National Farmers Union. The award signifies that the member has shown dedication to improving the livelihoods of family farmers and ranchers. MFU awarded Golden Triangles to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Tim Walz, Rep. Rick Nolan and Rep. Collin Peterson.
Minnesota Farmers Union Welcomes Brita Moore as Public Relations Director
As of July 10, 2017, Brita Moore has joined the Minnesota Farmers Union staff as Public Relations Director.
Moore, who lives in St. Paul, previously was assistant managing editor at Agri News, a weekly newspaper focusing on agricultural issues in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.
“I am honored to work with MFU,” Moore said. “I look forward to helping strengthen Minnesota’s rural communities and sharing the stories of our farmers.”
“Brita’s experience as an agriculture journalist will be a great benefit to our staff,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “I am grateful to have her on board.”
Moore will primarily be responsible for promoting MFU on social media, contributing stories to the monthly Minnesota Agriculture publication and media relations. She can be reached at email@example.com, 651-288-4068 (office) or 651-308-2435 (cell).
Minnesota Farmers Union Member from Northfield, MN in Rice County Creates Stunning Landmark Sculpture for Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) member, Mike Peterson, from Northfield, MN in Rice County, and Rice County Vice President, created a stunning sculpture for MFU that represents the true symbols of family farmers, whom MFU strong advocates for and supports. The plow, rake, and hoe are the original insignia of Minnesota Farmers Union, and represent the historical tools of farmers that represent their hard work. Read more here.
MFU Rambow Logo Wear
MFU offers a line of dress shirts, sweatshirts, casual wear and bags for purchase in partnership with Rambow Inc. out of New London, Minn. Click here to view merchandise and place an order.