Meat processing top priority for Farmers Union

Photo by Fritz Busch Stu Lourey, Government Relations director for the Minnesota Farmers Union, talks at the Brown County Farmers Union Convention at the Sleepy Eye Golf Club on Tuesday.

SLEEPY EYE — Minnesota Farmers Union Government Relations Director Stu Lourey told the Brown County Farmers Union Tuesday that progress was made on a good number of issues in the 2022 agriculture bill and progress was made on a number of other issues.

Lourey said progress was made last session on drought relief, investing in long-term climate resilience, expanding local and regional processing, focusing on meat processing.

Lourey said the funding from the current Farm Bill included about $1.5 million in expanded, local and regional meat processing.

“That was our number one priority,” he added. “We also got $350,000 to teach high school students meat cutting. That’s exciting. We got an FFA student to testify (to legislative committees) that they wanted to learn meat cutting, because it was important to her family farm operation and other livestock farmers to have independent processing options. It passed with strong, bipartisan support.”

Other objectives for the Farmers Unions are restoring market competition, strengthening anti-trust laws, supporting generational farm transition and making health care more affordable.

“I’m proud to say we made good progress on a number of issues and got close in other packages,” Lourey said. He said some of the legislative progress was done with help from the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

“We drafted and played a big role in shaping a drought relief bill, carried by Rep. Mike Sundeen, R-Esko, that was the ultimate vehicle that passed in the agriculture bill,” Lourey said.

“Members told me it was easy to apply for, meaningful, (although it) didn’t make anyone whole, but we were glad to get that done,” he added. “We also got the $15 million supplemental ag package done. It was a big deal.”

Lourey said the Farmers Union, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Nature Conservancy and others helped craft a $500,000 soil health grant for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

“The MDA told me they’ll use the grant to concentrate on conservation equipment, strip tillers, interseeders and that sort of thing. Hopefully, we can add to that in future sessions,” said Lourey.

“We left a lot on the table, including a $4 billion tax break, the the largest in state history,” he added. “It included expanding the beginning farmer tax credit, easing generational farm transition. It would have expanded the Farmer’s School Property Tax Credit to 85% and increased the ag school homestead credit to reflect increasing land values and would have provided a new tax credit for SWCD (soil and water conservation districts) to get them out of the Clean Water Fund and into the tax bill.”

Lourey said the SWCD tax credit would have been huge for conservation and helped local government rein in property taxes.

“In talking to Sen. (Gary) Dahms today, they are interested in picking up this legislation again,” added Lourey.

He said the federal government approved $20 billion for farm conservation bills over the next 10 years, $500 million to upgrade fuel infrastructure with blender pumps and $10 billion in aid to aid to rural electric cooperatives to help in the transition to renewable energy.

Lowery said 2023 Farm Bill priorities include increasing enforcement of the Packers & Stockyards Act (PSA), strengthening PSA rules including addressing retaliation by packers against growers, reinstating mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL), and reforming checkoff programs to be producer controlled and regularly reviewed.

In addition, supporting dairy growth management principles to stem the loss of family dairy farms and strengthening the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program, which with improvements, can serve as a useful risk management tool.


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