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Serving: MN
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HELP NEEDED: Letters to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue request disaster assistance and a reworking of the Market Facilitation Program.

Minnesota policymakers write to USDA on behalf of farmers

Gov. Tim Walz and Rep. Collin Peterson wrote to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue for assistance.

USDA secretary Sonny Perdue is receiving two important letters from Minnesota — one from Gov. Tim Walz and another from Rep. Collin Peterson, who represents Minnesota’s 7th District.

Walz requested a disaster designation in his Nov. 7 letter to Perdue for several Minnesota counties so that farmers could access federal programs to help recover from recent weather events and losses.

Walz described the widespread spring flooding, record rains and early snow that state farmers have endured in Polk, Clay, Norman, Marshall, Pennington, Lake of the Woods, Kittson, Roseau, Red Lake, Wilkin, Becker and Mahnomen counties.

“…Due to extreme weather conditions, many [farmers] were unable to harvest their crop this fall,” Walz wrote. “Commodities Minnesota is known for including sugar beets, potatoes, soybeans, sunflowers, edible beans and wheat have been victim to flooding, disease and freezing temperatures. The unrelenting and unprecedented weather patterns are producing poor yields and causing crops to rot in the field.”

Walz noted that the state’s soybean harvest is well below the five-year average, sugarbeets are well below the 95% five-year average, and that most of the potato harvest in the Red River Valley is over due to freezing temperatures.

“Northwest Minnesota needs access to federal aid to recover and endure the effects these losses will have in the coming years,” Walz added.

Peterson, who chairs the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, said he has heard from hundreds of producers who are concerned that recent Market Facilitation Program payments are inequitable and creating winners and losers among neighbors.

In a Nov. 1 letter to Perdue, he said farmers in his district have raised several issues:

Ineligible acres. “Acres that were not certified or enrolled in farm programs in 2018 are ineligible for 2019 MFP. If a farm recently changed hands and the previous owner of farmland had not participated in farm programs or the acreage on the farm wasn't certified for 2018, the new farmer cannot receive 2019 MFP payments.”

Peterson added that, “This frustration was further highlighted by the fact that Perdue didn't announce this requirement until after the date had closed to potentially late certify 2018 acreage.”

Crop rotations. “Depending on the year in which an MFP-ineligible crop was planted, crop rotations have prevented farmers from receiving MFP payments.”

Trade flow disruptions. “MFP payments do not account for the impact on basis that have resulted from disruptions to trade flows. County-by-county effects on basis are not uniform and harm some farmers, particularly those far from ports or those who were the main suppliers to China, much more than others.”

Seed blend eligibility. “Forage growers' eligibility for MFP hinges on the seed blend. A mix that is too heavily weighted to grass rather than alfalfa may not be eligible while others who happened to choose a blend with more alfalfa will receive payments.”

Dairy differences. “Dairy farmers question why MFP payments were based on their established farm program production history while all other MFP-eligible crops are based on actual production, especially when their actual production is readily available via their milk checks.”

Ineligible sectors. “While 2019 MFP includes many more crops and varieties of production than 2018 MFP, some crop and livestock sectors that were affected by trade disputes or whose markets are impacted by covered crops remain ineligible for 2019 MFP.”

“I would encourage you to strongly consider rectifying these situations as you contemplate the next rounds of assistance under the MFP program,” Peterson wrote. “I also stand ready to work with the administration on long term fixes to our commodity safety net.”

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