Minn. Farmers Union president says agriculture is ‘in crisis now’
HANSKA — Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish talked in no uncertain terms about the state of agriculture these days at the Brown County Farmers Union convention Tuesday.
“We’re in crisis now. No doubt,” Wertish said. “Farming has been tough the past few years, but when the president granted ethanol hardship waivers, he pushed us over the edge.”
Wertish said it’s not a partisan issue when dealing with policies that are against agriculture.
“We’ve spoken out against Republicans and Democrats in the past if their farm policies are against agriculture. We should speak up,” Wertish said. “We’ve got to elevate this issue and get people talking about it. It’s not good what’s happening now. I think the president has boxed himself into a corner and he doesn’t know where to go. Farmers are taking the brunt of it.”
Wertish said the Farmers Union disagrees with the president taking on China all by himself instead of building an international coalition.
“Much of our beef and soybeans used to go to China. Losing that market really puts farmers at risk,” Wertish said. “Some farmers won’t get another loan. There’s going to be some hard decisions. We’ll lose some people. It’s not about poor, inefficient farmers. It’s about weather and markets. The trade tariffs with China took the market away from us.”
Wertish said big oil corporations made billions in profits this year and received ethanol waivers while ethanol plants are struggling to the point where 15 of them have shut down including one at Winnebago. He said other ethanol plants are throttling back production to deal with the refinery hardship waivers exempting them from the country’s biofuel law.
“We were exporting a lot of ethanol to China. Everybody agrees China isn’t playing by the rules on intellectual property rights,” Wertish said. “But China doesn’t have elections. They can play the long game. I don’t agree that our short-term pain leads to long-term gains.”
Minnesota Farmers Union vice presidential candidates spoke prior to Wertish. Candidates included Goodhue County dairy farmer Debra Mills, Big Stone County farmer Anne Schwagerl and incumbent Bryan Klabunde of Waubun in Mahnomen County.