At their respective annual meetings in late November, voting delegates for the Minnesota Farm Bureau and the Minnesota Farmers Union re-elected their presidents for another term.
At the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation’s 101st annual meeting, Kevin Paap was re-elected to a two-year term as president. At the 78th consecutive Minnesota Farmers Union annual meeting, Gary Wertish was re-elected to another term.
Policy focus for 2020
Acknowledging that agriculture is facing financial and emotional challenges, the MFBF board of directors, with input from voting delegates, identified several opportunities to support farmers, ranchers and rural communities:
Rural communities. The vitality and resiliency of strong rural communities is a priority for MFBF. This includes a strong workforce, educational opportunities through career and technical programs and access to affordable childcare.
MFBF will support accessibility and expansion of high-speed broadband to all of Minnesota.
MFBF will strongly advocate for access to tools, resources and support systems to address the health and wellness of our rural communities.
Health care. Affordability and availability of health insurance and the accessibility to health care providers is a significant concern for Minnesota farm families and small businesses. MFBF will work towards finding solutions addressing both high health insurance premiums and lack of availability to individual health insurance options.
Transportation. MFBF will continue efforts to address Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure needs, especially rural roads and bridges, so that products are able to be moved efficiently by river, pipeline, rail and road.
Environment. Using innovative precision agriculture, improved seeds, renewable energy and climate-smart practices, Minnesota farmers are producing more food, renewable fuel and fiber than ever before. They accomplish this while using less water, protecting against erosion and conserving more soil, avoiding nutrient loss, increasing wildlife habitat, and improving biodiversity. This is best accomplished through voluntary, site-specific actions at the local level to protect and conserve our natural resources.
Trade. Farm Bureau will continue to be a leader in efforts to protect and expand agricultural market opportunities through new trade agreements and enforcement of existing trade relationships in order to strengthen the economy.
Taxes. Tax reform at the local, state and federal levels that recognizes agriculture’s unique financial challenges remains a priority for Farm Bureau. MFBF will work with the legislature and administration to address public land management and tax conformity issues, specifically Section 179, to ensure farmers have a tax code that provides clarity and certainty. Property tax reform continues to remain a priority for MFBF.
Food. Minnesota farmers are committed to providing access to sustainable, safe, healthy food choices. Farmers work to continuously improve production methods and technologies and communicate this throughout the food supply chain. Farmers are dedicated to caring for their animals, managing and improving the quality of their environment, and enhancing the quality and accessibility of food and fiber they produce utilizing different production methods.
At the annual Minnesota Farmers Union meeting, delegates spent the weekend wrapping up cooperative policy debate and remembering recently-passed membership and outreach director Bruce Miller.
Members debated issues including agricultural anti-trust, renewable energy policy, drainage policy, transportation and more.
They also passed three special orders calling for rebuilding agricultural markets, including by rebuilding trading relationships with China; the creation of a public option for health care and opposition to pharmaceutical provisions in international trade deals; and a state bonding bill that invests in the Rural Finance Authority, broadband infrastructure, ag emergency preparedness, upgrading organic facilities at the University of Minnesota-Morris dairy, and upgrading the processing facility at the Northeast Regional Correctional Center.
Numerous speakers mentioned Miller in their remarks, including Gov. Tim Walz, commissioner of agriculture Thom Petersen, Sen. Tina Smith and Reps. Angie Craig and Tom Emmer.
“Although Bruce wasn’t physically present at convention, his legacy was with us,” Wertish said. “He spent his life fighting for social justice, especially with MFU in the local foods movement.”