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sunrise aerial view of farmland PatrickZiegler/Getty Images
EYE ON HORIZON: With a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party House and a Republican Senate, Minnesota is the only state that has a divided Legislature. The 2019 session begins Jan. 8 and ends May 20.

New year, new tone

Northstar Notes: Focus on policy, rather than party or politics in 2019.

Farm meeting season started the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, with annual meetings for Minnesota Farm Bureau and Minnesota Farmers Union.

While unable to attend the entire meetings of both, I did participate at one and was an observer at the other. I came away from both events feeling hopeful for 2019. With the midterm elections over, we can focus on matters at hand, locally and globally, and tailor solutions fit for us.

As I heard one of the farm leaders repeat throughout his annual address, it’s time to put policy over party and politics.

As we in agriculture are fond of saying, we have more that unites us than divides us. It is time to behave like we truly believe this. For the good of our industry and businesses, we must again focus on the big picture and push what is good for Minnesota now and 30 years down the road. When we hear some lawmakers balk and complain about what was and what they won’t do, let’s encourage them to look ahead, offer ideas on issues and conclude this year’s legislative session on time.

Listen, learn, compromise
I served as a first-time volunteer judge for the Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet held during MFB’s annual meeting. One question that contestants were asked to discuss focused on how the organization could be more inclusive of all agriculture and production practices. Given our white Catholic-Protestant dominance in both Farm Bureau and Farmers Union, I thought this was an insightful question to raise.

The young adults at the meet did a great job. They acknowledged their sameness and then centered their conversation on how to stretch themselves and move outside their usual spheres. Contestants bounced suggestions back and forth, generating more ideas. One idea was to increase diversity by making a personal connection with different groups of farmers — Hmong, black, small farm producers who sell at farmers markets. Reach out to other organizations or programs and share what Farm Bureau does. Bringing it to the consumer level, they suggested engaging with diverse groups such as those who want lab-grown meat, and college students in the arts and environmental studies.

As a judge, my job was to score contestants based on their grasp of the topic or problem and their ability to analyze it and offer solutions. Throughout their discussion, which was set up to simulate a committee meeting, they also needed to show a cooperative attitude toward one another by listening, asking questions and encouraging others to express views.

They modeled communication, cooperation and problem solving in a positive manner. No one dominated the discussion. No one got emotional or negative.

It was a good exercise in which all of us would benefit.

Listen, then talk. And listen some more.



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