Ag panelists take issue with perception farmers get large amounts of money from Farm Bill
MARSHALL — A full range of farm issues was discussed Tuesday at the Lyon County Fairgrounds by four of the area’s farm leaders.
A crowd of about 70 people attended the 2023 State of Agriculture forum sponsored by the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce.
Panelists included Boerboom Ag Resources Chief Executive Officer Mike Boerboom, Lynd area fourth generation farmer Mark Fischer, Cottonwood area farm wife and Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation Vice President Carolyn Olson, and Lake Benton area farmer and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association President Bob Worth.
The largest share of time at the hour-long forum was spent on the upcoming federal Farm Bill. It is currently under development in Congress. The goal is to finalize Farm Bill work by Oct. 1.
Panelists took issue with the idea that the Farm Bill involves a massive amount of money given to farmers, noting the 83% of Farm Bill funds go toward nutrition assistance.
“There’s a perception that the Farm Bill involves a huge amount of money for farmers,” Fischer said. “That’s not the case. We only get a small part of it.”
Olson said the nutrition aspect makes the Farm Bill more of a farm and food bill, but that the combination is important for funding agricultural improvements that would be difficult for farmers to afford on their own.
She addressed how climate change might factor into the final version of the Farm Bill. She hopes it doesn’t included mandates for practices such as no-till field work.
“Our farm is organic, so we don’t use chemicals,”she said. “Tillage is an alternative. We can’t no-till because we’d have an explosion of weeds. Some initiatives championed by environmental groups would be detrimental to farm operations.”
She said rural residents should communicate with federal lawmakers about having a well-rounded Farrm Bill, something that will be vital to keeping a strong rural economy.
Worth said he’d like to see continued support for proven farm-based conservation practices rather than elaborate new ideas to combat climate change.
Panelists also urged caution with electric car mandates. They noted that corn-based ethanol and soybean biodiesel both have many years of research to back them up, and that they can remain vital parts of a renewable fuel strategy.
“It’s important the we don’t drop other things to work on climate change,” Worth said. “Over the years we’ve developed programs that are good for farmers, for the environment and for the public. We need to keep them going.”
The forum also had detailed discussion of high land values, which have been fueled by a combination of interested buyers and low interest rates. The panelists all agreed that even with interest rates trending upward high land values are expected to continue.
“They (land values) have reached record highs,” Boerboom said. “I don’t see that changing. The only way it’s likely to go in the other direction is if we see new challenges with the farm economy.”
A question from the audience led to comments about “right to repair” legislation, which aims to give small repair shops a fair opportunity to work with farm machinery. Increased computer capabilities have led to more of a need for dealers to service equipment themselves.
Olson said right to repair would be better handled federally than by individual states. Worth said he’d like to help small shops, but that he also understands the concerns of industry about equipment safety and the need to protect themselves from lawsuits.
Near the end of the forum, panelists discussed the trend toward parental leave legislation. They all agreed that it poses difficulties for farms and small businesses who only employ several people.
At the start of the forum, moderator Ken Franzky of Centrol Crop Consulting asked for a show of hands from audience members not directly involved in production agriculture. Only several hands went up.
“I’m not surprised,” Franzky said “At farm forums we usually preach to the choir, to people who have a real understanding of farm issues. We need to get information out to the 98% of the general public who aren’t familiar with it.”
Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Director Brad Gruhot said the Chamber sponsors an annual State of Agriculture event to give farm professionals a chance to come together and share ideas. He said it helps to keep farm issues at the forefront of daily life in the Marshall area.
“Agriculture is the lifeblood of Marshall,” Gruhot said. “When it does well things are better for everyone. It’s important to hear from leaders who have agricultural backgrounds.”