Listen: 100468.wav
0:00 |

A Mainstreet Radio special broadcast of Minnesota Citizens Forum, live from FarmFest in Redwood Falls. Tom Rothman hosts a discussion of the importance of a strong rural economy to Minnesota. Particpants of forum include Willis Anthony, Nicollet County farmer; Marcie McLaughlin, Minnesota Rural Partners; and Erlin Weness, U of M Farm Management Specialist.

Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

(00:00:15) Good morning. I'm John Ray be welcome to a special broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio. My pleasure to introduce your host for the next two hours Tom Rothman Farm director of the Minnesota farm Radio Network. Thank you, John and good morning and welcome to Farm Fest here in Southwestern Minnesota. This is a special Main Street radio broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio. It's the third of four citizens forums examining Minnesota agriculture. Our series is a joint effort of MPR ktc a public television the Star Tribune newspaper and the University of Minnesota extension service. Our topic during the next two hours is just how important is a strong rural economy to Minnesota. The agricultural economy is in the midst of a serious downturn. What does this mean for the rest of the state? And what is the future of our rural communities in Minnesota during the first hour of our program we'll discuss the issue with University of Minnesota extension farm management specialist her loneliness of Worthington, Marcie McLaughlin of Minnesota rural partner. She is from Morton not too far from the Farm Fest grounds and Willis Anthony a farmer from Nicollet County and South Central Minnesota will take questions from our audience here at Farm fest with the help of Kent TC of the University of Minnesota extension service and the Minnesota Association of counties. And from Lori Sturdevant's of the Star Tribune newspaper and we invite our radio listeners to call in with questions. Our number is 1-800-543-8242. The number again is 1-800-585-9396 program is also being fed to about two dozen extension service offices around Minnesota for a further discussion of this issue. Erland - let's start with you. We've seen a lot of ups and downs in the farm economy over the past many years. The 1980s were called the farm crisis years. Just how serious is the situation now facing farmers and other rural residents. Well Tom, we're facing another one of those periods of trial and this time it's not due to price collapse in terms of land prices and that type of thing it's due to poor prices and it's having a strong impact on our rural communities Farmers basically are the basis of strength of of the rural economy and most of southern And they've been struggling for some time. Now, if you look at data from like the southwest Minnesota farm management association income dropped more than 30,000 dollars last year from its 98 versus 97 to a to a an amount of about $8,000 per Farm, which is just not sustainable in the long run. That's one of the lowest earnings figures we've had in in 30 40 years its ignition real problem and it's very low. The reason for that is basically prices are low. We've had we've had terribly low hog prices. We've had terribly little corn and bean prices during that period and that's that's had a significant impact on the viability of many of our farm businesses many farms have quite a bit of debt. The profitability hasn't been very good for the last five or six years and that debt of course is built up and that that's Posing a problem today when you don't have adequate income this this economic downturn of course since farmers are kind of the base of the many of the rural economy much of the real economy and Southern Minnesota has has impacted rural towns. I've talked to several businesses in terms of you know, feed retail Machinery hardware furniture that type of businesses and all of them are reporting downturns in terms of their income for many farmers. I've talked to have just stopped stop spending. So it is having a quite an impact. I think on most of southern Minnesota Marcie McLaughlin of Minnesota rural Partners. Is there still hope is there still hope and Rural communities in Minnesota for a brighter (00:04:18) future. Well, of course there is just to be clear as Earl instead. We're talking about Southwestern Minnesota Western Minnesota and Northwestern that's the communities that are critically Dependent upon agriculture, but if you look at the question how important is a strong rural economy to the state of Minnesota. We can say very and it also needs to be diverse. If you look at Central Minnesota with tourism and expansion there. They're doing quite well Northeast. Minnesota has the other natural resources forestry and Mining and there's some pressures on them, but their economy has Diversified as well as Southeastern Minnesota right now. You couldn't find sheet rock or could or Carpenter if you want it to so there is growth Statewide within Rural and we need to be careful and also continue to encourage diversity among the economy in those communities and it's going to be there that those communities that were dependent upon agriculture will find their strengths. What I'm hearing from people is that it's time to reinvent ourselves Revitalize yourself redesign ourselves. Not only is (00:05:29) All (00:05:29) producers or individual small business owners within the community but also the community itself. (00:05:37) Well as Anthony, you're a farmer from Nicollet County you're in the midst of this is there hope from a farmer's standpoint that things will turn around and the future is bright. Well, I sincerely hope there's hope or I'd give up and and have an auction tomorrow. Yes. I think there's hope and I say that on two counts, I guess one of them is that we've had for years and years and years Cycles in agriculture and agricultural markets in all of them. Now. We certainly didn't expect to see the downturn in the cycle that we have now and it's a real crunch a very severe crunch Orleans numbers certainly bore that out and it reflects the experience that each one of us is having fortunately this time around there. We don't have the level of interest rates that we had occurring during the 1980s it debacle but on the one hand there is the the cycle and markets on the other I would hope that It becomes another signal that we need to have a fairly significant shift in our attitude and public policies toward what we're doing in food and agriculture in the United States. We are taking questions from our listeners listening audience on Minnesota Public Radio. The number to call is 1-866-376-8255 to we have a caller on the line Sharon. Go ahead with your question, please my concern is that (00:06:53) staff of state and federal Departments of Agriculture and the Minnesota extension staff have been sleeping on the job. They have not been proactive and encouraging and leading change. Are they earning their salaries? (00:07:09) Well her loneliness here with the extension service at the University of Minnesota want to tackle that well, it feels like I'm earning my salary when I'm working every day. But I guess I guess I look at this thing as something that's much larger than local extension or local Departments of AG econ or agronomics International competition is part of our problem exports are part of our problem. It's a much larger thing than I think even if you know extension or even the state legislature can solve it's a much larger problem than then you can you can point at your local county and say you solve this problem. I think that's really, you know, not not very realistic (00:07:55) Marcy. Well, I just reinforce it. These are international pressures. These are decisions that are made in Washington or even Beyond and the local leaders the local community the local individuals have to You're out how they deal with those decisions on that very local level. And this is frankly a result of some of the movements in the 1990s for Devolution to bring that kind of authority in that kind of power back to the local local level. So we're seeing a change in public policies as you said will and also the international economy. (00:08:31) We have another questioner. This one is on our live audience here at Farm (00:08:35) Fest. Yes. I have with me here Ralph Novotny from Hector in Renville County. He's a farmer and he has a question for our panel. (00:08:44) Yeah, I guess when I come in here, I was given a survey I'm supposed to fill out. I'm supposed to grade the freedom to farm policy on a letter grade from a to F kind of like low grade school, but I don't know how to grade it. What was it supposed to do? It was supposed to lower grain prices. So they're equal to the World level (00:09:11) it sure done that (00:09:14) but they also have always told me that grain demand is relatively inelastic. We have a economist up there. He can testify to the app if you produce more grain lower the price farmers are going to make less money. So what should I grade it a or F for what? Well, it's Anthony you want to tackle that I think that Ralph was asking the question of Earl and weenus, but yes, I'll But do things one of them is that the the freedom to farm policy with the fair actor, whatever you choose to call. It seems to me to have been a reflection of a very fundamental shift in the public policy attitudes toward what's going to be done for agriculture. As a matter of national policy. It seems to me fairly clear indication that there was widespread belief that the policy that is put in place in the program is put in place beginning the 1930s as a disaster act were if they had been effective at that time were far outmoded and and the world had change in policy had not so number one widespread belief that it is important to get some fundamental policy changes. The major concern that I have with what happened in conjunction with The Fair Act is that there were three underpinnings or three parts that whole process that were supposed to occur as a matter of public policy. One of them. The freedom to farm bill secondly was a commitment to expanding export in international trade and A little has happened in terms of expanding trade and if we're going to have a u.s. Agriculture that's producing it full bore. There's no way we can do it with with sustainable prices unless we have access to markets and that commitment simply has not been followed through in any significant fashion. A third component of that process was to have been adequate funding for research education and development in agriculture and the fund for Rural America that has fundamentally not been funded and the money that's being spent invested nationally for research and development in agriculture has been declining in real terms for many many years of put more money into space programs more money to National Institute of Health more money at a National Science Foundation and less money into food and agriculture in the environment. And there's no way that we can develop sensible kinds of public policies with that kind of an approach. So does that mean a or an F it I forget the question, but I think the answer is it depends? On on freedom to farm, I would grade that as a be on the whole set of policies. I've moved toward the D Willis when we talk about the future of rural communities and we talked about the lives ahead for the people that live in many rural communities whether it's on the farm or in town. What role does does Farm policy play in all of this. Well Farm, it depends on how Farm policy is formulated. I'd rather talk about food and agriculture policy because I think in today's political climate, you have to involve the whole dimension of what's going on in food and agriculture rather than simply talking about Farm policy the role that farm policy plays I think is is twofold one of them is that in so far as federal government? And to a lesser extent state government puts in place policies that affect structure of Agriculture that has a profound impact on what's happening in the world community that is number of farms size of farms where people are going for supplies what we're doing in terms of our processing all of that. Obviously a great impact on what's happening in the rural community if we're talking however about simply the policies that affect prices and incomes then other kinds of policies that affect what's going on in jobs and Industry and other employment in rural communities is more significant and not to neglect in this whole conversation. What's going on in Environmental Policy that's affecting what we're doing on the farm and what were unable to do for processing in rural communities. It should be pointed out why Willis makes these comments that he's a farmer from Nicholas counties. Also an economist by trade Marcy. (00:13:30) We have been dependent on a farm policy to set the pace for rural u.s. Rural Minnesota, and I think it's time to rethink that and Give some critical attention to forming a rural policy where the and then the egg policy is part of that. Similarly. You have decisions that are made with in forestry and iron Mining and economic development and industrial expansion those all fit under the component of a rural policy and that begs the question to each one of us. What do we want? Rural Minnesota look like do we want people on the land? We want schools hospitals communities that are strong or is that not important to the state? Well, I think we all of us here probably have an answer to that one. But I would also point out that you know that we're not alone in the world discussing these issues and the economic Union is also trying to figure out what they are going to do with within the union where 20% of the people live on 80% of the land. What's the responsibility for the urbanized areas of Europe towards those areas and He did put together a cork cork declaration. And I know that we are all connected by the web. And if you go to the NPR web page, I've put that on there one of the things that the participants in the European conference on Rural Development have urged is to build public awareness about the importance of making a new start in rural development policy. So it's time once again when we're talking about revitalizing we need to look at those long-held policies Willis that that have been around for 50 60 years that have driven the rural economy often times by default. (00:15:16) We have more questioners here in our Farm Fest audience and also on the foam David in Minneapolis. Go ahead with your question. Hi, I just wanted to compare what's going on in farming a little bit with what's going on in printing and ask a question. I've been involved for years in the printing industry and there's a lot of parallels with the globalization pressures and a lot of a lot of debt because there's a lot of Equipment to make and the fact the matter is there's a lot of small family printers that are going to go out of business and are now because there's just too many of them and nobody's proposing a handout for printers or a freedom to print act and I'm wondering why is it that small family printers can go out of business and that's okay but small and efficient Family Farms have to be taken care of. That's a question that's been asked for years. It's not an easy answer question earliness. Well, I think we're dealing here with kind of a vital commodity and that's food. We're all pretty dependent upon that it's a little different than printing but I think the danger is if we let the structure of Agriculture change to the point where it's all produced by a very few individuals, we could be easily held hostage to in terms of price as to what we're going to pay for our food and and as as the structure changes over to two large integrated units that that is certainly the danger right now. We've got one of the cheapest Food Supplies and best quality food supplies in the world most families do not spend very much of their disposable income for that food and that could change quite quite dramatically right. Now the way I look at it. We're paying a small amount at the food store and we're paying a small subsidy through our Is to keep small farmers going and keep our food supply and in Broad hands and eventually we may discontinue this subsidy, but we may pay more in the total through paying more for food (00:17:17) Marcie McLaughlin an excellent question and observation and those that are involved with the printing in this group had a reaction to that. Also. I think what this demonstrates is that no matter within small businesses, you've got individuals who are investing Capital investing labor and what they want basically is a fair return for their labor in printing, you know, you have a paper glut suddenly the paper makers are sitting there with a large Supply and how does that impact the Grand Rapids area in the paper companies up there what this illustrates is that those of us that are community members who are inserted into that Community because we're small business owners or because we're Community leaders have to realize that we're in this together and how We support one another either doing business, you know doing our local trade with one another or seeing ourselves as a as a community and knowing that we need to you know, really lock step here and move forward. So an excellent point as a small business owner myself. I asked that question often (00:18:21) Willis Anthony our Farmers any different should they be treated differently than the other small business men and women? Well, it's a it's a very good question and a question that has to be raised and I was at for I'm not long ago where someone who is a small contractor and actually had a couple of backhoes and if you dump trucks was Raising exactly the same question, it seems to me that and I've given it a lot of thought and don't have a good answer but it seems to me that the fundamental difference it has to do with people's attitudes towards what they want the countryside to look like and I think that there are many of us in the United States who carry the notion that we would like to see a Countryside dotted with small farms a Countryside dotted with some dairy cows and and a few pigs and it's this Notion is vision of what Rural America is supposed to look like in that concept that I think is a powerful driving force affecting policy. It doesn't directly raised raised any good response to the question. Why should Farmers be treated any differently from the printer or the or the pharmacy owner or anybody else and certainly the grocery store owner and the frankly, I guess it's hard for me to put together an argument that says that we should be treated any different. So it's a good question, but I think it has more to do with the vision of what people think of as Rural America than it does with any of the economic issues. We have another questioner for our panel. He is in our Farm Fest grounds. Yes. We have a question and a comment from State Representative Bob nests from Dazzle, Minnesota up in Meeker County. Good morning. I was just trying to put a picture to what's happening in agriculture and somehow or other we produce probably 90% more than we can consume. So we have to have markets we look at what I'm trying to analyze is chair of the house egg finance committee is what are the mega trends that are driving the economy and I don't hear a whole lot of conversation about those megatrends clearly. We're into great specialization great capital investment, or if you look around the grounds here at Farm Fest, you look at the size of the equipment and the kinds of things that are in the marketplace. You've got to ask the question. What are the mega trends that are driving this if Farms are getting larger some of our communities are going to get smaller. Our schools are impacted. Our local businesses are impacted and in the list goes on but no one's talking about marketing. And if we are producing something that we do not have markets or demand for the products we produce what are we going to recognize the mega trends that are that are driving our whole world economy. I've lived in rural Minnesota all my life and in some different cities and I think I pretty well understand, you know the landscape but I as I try and bring resolution to the profitability in agriculture, whether it's livestock or Commodities somehow or other we have to start talking increasingly about is there a demand in heaven our Farmers know that when they're producing a crop that there is a market out there and there is a price for that product. I don't know of any other business that produces something that has really no assurance that there is some potential for Market or for demand for that product. If you'd like to address the mega Trends in the marketing side of this equation in terms we know we can produce it. We just haven't been able to All it at a profit has there been enough efforts in the area of marketing or loneliness? Well, I think that's an area in terms of international marketing and that all we could always do more. I think the speaker pointed out several several of the mega Trends, but to me the big Mega Trend that that pervades all others is unit cost of production. We are we are striving in a capitalist society and worldwide to to see who can produce products at the at the cheapest cost per unit that will be the Survivor. It's economics that drives this whole thing as far as I'm concerned. There are many other megatrends that you can bring in you mentioned specialization and capitalization. And and I think what many people are doing is they're striving to reduce their cost of production at their unit cost of production and one of the mega Trends, I think that that we're seeing to take some of Risk got a farming. One of the trends we're seeing is that of more contract production. It's been very successful in things like sugar beets and and other Industries and we're seeing more and more of a trend toward contract production where the risk is taken out of out of it and a given amount of production is produced and you know where it's going (00:23:07) Marcy well and you're talking units at that point or in the the other thing that a number of Rural farmers and folks that are in transition are talking about is how you Market the Specialty Products now, that's not going to be an answer for this whole Farm economy challenge, but right over here is the oreag utilization and Research Institute individual folks are saying I want to go into elq production or I want to go into Making candles out of soybeans or whatever whatever that is. So as individuals the marketing opportunities are there. We with Minnesota real Partners assisted USDA Rural Development last year going throughout the state and one thing that repeated over and over again, no matter if we were in what area of the state and no matter what it was that we were interested those folks are interested in doing they want it to continued in assistance with marketing coordination and access for many existing and emergence emerging Minnesota products that is certainly would reinforce what the department of AG is doing what department of trade and economic development as well as Minnesota Technologies and Ori, so just reinforcing that yes access to markets is critical no matter what you're producing (00:24:27) we have time for another caller before we break for news on Minnesota Public Radio Joe is taking part in one of the listening sessions around Minnesota. He's at the Earl Brown Center in the Twin Cities Joe. Go ahead with your question mentioned in a previous Forum Europe protects their Farmers because the people of Europe have known hunger for the most part those of us the United States have not If we were to view egg as in Europe are their practices or policies in Europe worth considering? Willis Anthony one of the arguments that the European Union has used for many many years and it's policy is that they want to protect their farmers do they have a different kind of policy there. Is there something we can learn from what's going on in Europe? Well, they have a fundamentally different kind of policy and that policy is generated because of the fact that you are primarily and for many years has been a net importer of food and agricultural Commodities as an importer. It's been able to to put together a policy that fundamentally is a program in which they raise the barriers of Commodities coming into Europe so that the price after they come in is as high as they want the domestic price to be it makes it relatively easy to put together public policy and programs when you don't have to expend very much in the way of tax dollars to do it now for years. There has been a discussion underway regarding how long of some of the European countries are going to be willing to stand still for supporting the agricultural policies of other countries. And as the European economic Union expands these tensions tend to get greater and greater and greater and whether or not they will result in disintegration, who knows the downside of the policy that they have had in place has been an enormous stimulation for increase in production of things like wheat it to a less and wheat is with then become a feed grain barley as a feed grain and the result has been they've generated the kind of production that's resulted in the European economic Community having been in a position of for lack of a better word dumping the excess commodity. It's been produced in some sectors into the rest of the world further disrupting World Markets. So again, it's been a fundamentally different food and agriculture situation in Europe and therefore they've been able to do fundamentally different things and it's possible to do in the United States one other point and that is that it appears to me that in Europe there exists. Not only because of his great. Awareness of what happens when you don't have food, but also because of apparently a more powerful image of what they want agriculture to look like that it has been possible to put in place the kinds of policies in countries. I'm told France. For example, we're simply in order to have a rural landscape that is more in in mesh with what people want to see they've done things in policy in order to provide for the existence of a lot more Farms than has a Germany is another example, you're listening to a special Main Street radio broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio coming to you live from Farm Fest here in Southwestern Minnesota. Let's take a break now for news and weather on Minnesota Public Radio (00:27:42) writers and writing on all things considered ashtrays and lamps and knives and pans of boiling water are all lethal weapons. (00:27:50) Two of them are just ecstatic their the dirty old man. And then two of them are real angry because they're the dirty old man (00:27:56) above I used to say that I was the Us think that is Syrian Christian girl could be which was thin and black and clever All Things Considered weekdays at 3:00 on Minnesota Public Radio and 0 wfm 91.1 in the Twin Cities. (00:28:11) 10:34. Today's programming is sponsored in part in celebration of wife Bonnie's birthday from husband Steve back to Farm fest with Tom Rothman and guests in just a moment. But first, let's get a look at the news from Greta Cunningham. (00:28:26) Thank you and good morning. The Senate has confirmed Richard Holbrooke as the new US ambassador at the United Nations holbrooks nomination had been held up for 14 months partly by an Ethics investigation and partly by unrelated delaying tactics by Senate Republicans. The post had been vacant since Bill Richardson left last year to become Energy Secretary Holbrook was an investment banker and is the former ambassador to Germany a congressional report is finding fault with the FBI's Espionage case against a weapon scientists at Los Alamos in New Mexico. The report says authorities identified a number of other But fail to identify them. It says the probe was flawed from the outset Republican house Speaker Dennis hastert is calling the GOP tax cutting Bill a good deal for the American people bastard and other Republican leaders have been rallying outside the capitol as President Clinton Village visits to Rally Democratic forces, and the house prepares to vote on the bill. President Clinton says the tax cuts are too large and he promises to veto the package in Regional News Minneapolis. Mayor Sharon sales belt and says she's not disturbed by st. Paul's efforts to lower the Minnesota Twins to st. Paul She says the deal st. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman struck with twins officials looks too much like other proposals. The legislature has already rejected Governor Ventura said again yesterday. He'll change his position on public financing for stadiums. When his alma mater gets a new building. That's the trade-off. He's offered in response to any Stadium plan been Torah says the Metrodome is 17 years old 60 years younger than Roosevelt High School the forecast for Minnesota today calls for mostly sunny. Eyes in the South partly cloudy skies in the north with a chance of showers or thunderstorms in the Northeast today high temperatures from 75 to 88 degrees at this hour. Mostly sunny skies reported in Duluth report sunshine and 69. It's mostly sunny in International Falls and 69 St. Cloud reports cloudy skies and 72 Rochester sunshine and 71 and in the Twin Cities. Mostly sunny skies a temperature of 75 degrees. That's a news update. I'm Greta (00:30:25) Cunningham. You're listening to a Citizens Forum examining Minnesota agriculture here on Minnesota Public Radio. We're coming to you live from Farm fests. Our citizens forum is a joint effort of MPR ktc a public television the Star Tribune newspaper and the University of Minnesota extension service our guests for the next half hour our irlen weenus of Worthington. He is an extension farm management specialist, Marcie McLaughlin of Minnesota rural partners and Willis Anthony a farmer from Nicollet County in South Central Minnesota. We're taking your questions on our radio audience one eight hundred five three 75252. The number again is 1-800-585-9396 in questions from our audience here at Farm Fest, and we have another question for our panel. (00:31:13) I have with me Randy Olson. He's a college student and a Dairy Farmer from Sundberg Minnesota, which is near Wilmer welcome Maddie. (00:31:20) Thank you. When a farmer's dollar turns over five to seven times in the rural economy value is added when a Citizens dollars spent at a Walmart store like the one they have up at Redwood Falls. Does that dollar turn over five to seven times in the economy surrounding Redwood Falls? Well, I think that gets back to the question of the importance of keeping Farmers farming. And and is there a reason to keep Farmers farming is does that keep the rural economy strong her loneliness? Yeah, I think as I look at it the average farmer in south southern Minnesota spends approximately $400,000 per year in expenses. That's that's data from the southwest farm management association about 400,000 now when they spend a dollar whether it be at the repair shop or at Walmart or wherever it starts turning over it goes then maybe to the employees of that organization who turn around and spend it may be at the local clinic or to their church or wherever it might go that goes again for salaries and expenses and utilities and it starts turning over I think basically in most of southern Minnesota it a lot of the the New Wealth starts on the farm, but I think every every dollar that's spent in Minnesota as compared to it being transported to Minneapolis and spent does add Vitality. So I don't know if you can segment out and say well this Jolly will turn over six times in this will only turn over three times. I I really don't think that's a reasonable assumption Merlin. Is it any different though? If if we have fewer Farmers, we still have as much land or about as much land being farmed it. Does that change that equation it? Yes. It does change the equation. We did a study in 1993 of farmers spending patterns and smaller Farmers spend more money locally than do larger Farmers. If you get larger Farmers, they're more apt to seek seek the discounts the quantity discounts at places further away 20 40 80 miles away from the farm. So as we switch shift in structure to larger Farms, I think we're definitely going to see a bypass of some of that money being spent in the real community and it's going to have an effect on our smaller towns Marcy. (00:33:44) Wow, that's a I'm just kind of chuckling because I'm thinking okay. How many farmers do I see and well in Walmart? Who's dollar might just stop right there this break this remain reminds me of a couple things one is the need and the continual need for off Farm employment erlin was talking earlier about the number of off farm jobs at folks have and so certainly the need for other businesses other manufacturing companies service companies tourism opportunities, whatever there is for the the second income earner and again going back to what I said about looking at this how we how we're all in this together. How do we keep that money local whether we're talking about the grocery store the hardware store the pharmacist, you know, when you need your prescription filled at nine o'clock at night when you go down to the trustee drug store that's been there for 40 years when I need it filled at two o'clock on a Saturday afternoon. You get it taken care of and Wilmer. So again, the question is We're In Time. The the statement would be we're in this together. How do we spend our money? Do we spend it locally? Do we keep turning that around no matter if you're a farmer or person who works at Artisan or person works at Jackpot (00:35:05) Junction. We've spent a lot of time talking about the value of keeping Farmers on the land and how that is reflected in a strong rural community. But do we need to talk more about how do we keep all of rural Minnesota strong? Whether it be the local businesses whether it be new businesses moving into particular areas, it's not just agriculture is it (00:35:28) not anymore? Not Statewide. Nope. (00:35:31) We have another question are here at our Farm Fest grounds. Can t see? Yes, we have Paul so basinski. He's a livestock producer from right here in Redwood County out near will Bassel Minnesota also very active in the land stewardship project my question and then I have a comment and we had some discussion in terms. About the structure of Agriculture here, and I guess I'd like to ask since the question of the ready sort of been answered about what supports local community more. It seems quite obvious from the panelists so far is that many independent family Farmers support the community more than just a few industrial Farms my question to each of the panelists that I'd like them to ask to answer is what system. Do you support an independent Family Farms system or the current trend line competing path of an industrialized corporate type system of agriculture and we're moving very fast in terms of the direction towards industrial corporate system. I think the hog situation is perhaps one real good example that and we can see the disaster. It's taken place in the last couple of years because of that movement like that have that question answered and then I like to follow up with the comment Willis Anthony. This is a question that not only our panelists need to answer but it's one that Society needs to answer doesn't it? Well, of course and and to directly answer the question to my preference is for an Agricultural structure that has a lot of small Family Farms period now the real challenge however is what do we do in order to preserve them and I am convinced that a lot of the policies that have been put in place in order to well with that as one of the objectives have number one not been very successful and number two have probably been misguided and wrongheaded and have contributed to what's been happening in structure rather than helping it again structure. So on the one hand you have to look at what you like to see and on the other what kind of policies would make sense in order to put it in place frankly. I'm convinced at this point that the only thing that's going to be effective in policy to keep a structure of Agriculture of a lot of small farms is going to be government to pass a law which says Thou shalt not have a farm greater than whatever number of Acres you want to put in the blank and whatever number of hogs cattle or whatever Enterprise you're looking at now. One of the things that seems to me we get ourselves into trouble with however when we look at the structure of Agriculture is to be thinking in terms of size of farms measured only in acres under production by that farm unit rather than looking also at what happens in in the livestock segment what happens in poultry what happens in Dairy and the whole set of other Enterprises that go in place in order to make a farm and it isn't only acres and representativeness made a very observant point of while back pointing out to the pointing out to us the equipment that's on exhibit around here at Farm Fest. And that is the powerful driving force for what's happening in acreage operated perform. The first thing that happened was putting lights on tractors it expanded the number of Acres operated perform. The second thing was calves and the third thing was a 400-horsepower tractors her loneliness. Did you want to answer that? Yes. Well, I also grew up on a family farm. I worked with Family Farms all my life and I I'd like to preserve them but we are fighting an awfully strong tendency and and the law of Economics of as I said earlier low unit cost production and there may be more efficient ways to do it and that's that's what we're fighting. I think when when we get right down to it it boils down. We as a society have to have to either socialize Agriculture and say we're going to guarantee you a living for being out there or we're going to let let the law of the Jungle take place and those that can produce it the fittest for 60 years that's been our policy. Let's let those let those survive who can do it the cheapest and I don't see a clamoring of very many people clamoring for change in that so I I'm a little fearful. We're not going to turn it around our questionnaire at Farm Fest on a follow-up. I guess the follow-up part of part of that piece is first of all in terms of when you look at the farm economy and you terms to look at who's going to be the Bible the fittest in order to have survival to fit Us in terms of independent Family Farms or farms in this nation or in this state you have to have open competitive markets and that's one of the reasons why we at the land stewardship project I pushing so hard for a strong mandatory price reporting bill. So that starts to return if you don't have open competitive markets the one who has the most money is the one is going to survive and they may not necessarily gotten their being competitive. They may just maybe got more dollars from the government trough then other Independent Producers the other part in terms of public policy in terms of the state level the key decision that has to be made by lawmakers such as Bob nest and and you know our Senate egg chair Dallas Sam's is what system. Are you going to put most your dollars to and a golden opportunity for example was mrs. Last session when the funding for Prairie Farmers Co-op was dropped now that Co-op is going ahead it appears. Like it's going to be successful and get off the ground received a tremendous amount of federal support and is also has some other types of assistance at the state level, but there's a choice for the choice at the state level for example state public policy. Are we supporting 1000 or 2000 called Aires or we're going to put more support in terms of helping independent family Farmers to be successful and and leading that effort and I think that's the piece that has to happen both the state and federal level. Thank you. We have another question are this from our radio audience Mary. Go ahead with your question, please hi. I'm Mary Stearns at the st. (00:41:32) Paul Earl Brown Center. (00:41:36) Mr. Anthony. How can inner-city Suburbia citizens help support Minnesota rural community farmers will buying products that local food stands, Minnesota grown and stores organic products or buying a share of the farmers produce help. Willis Anthony certainly it helps and the if the question is how do inner-city consumers directly affect what's going on in agriculture and in terms of the demand for Commodities, I see public efforts aimed at generating a better and better environment for farmers markets for a better and better environment for growing organic foods, if that's what people choose to buy and grow and it does provide for a richness in the fabric of rural a of rural communities in agriculture. That would not otherwise exist having said that it seems to me that if one looks at a typical what I typify as an inner city resident who is trying to buy food as cheaply as possible in order to stretch the dollars as far as possible in the Market Basket, they're going to buy whatever they can buy at least cost and that Unfortunately frequently does not mean the kind of produce that that we sometimes see in the in the farmers markets. We have another question area here at Farm Fest. I (00:43:04) have someone who could give us some Main Street perspective. It's Mary Page. She's a business owner in Olivia Minnesota. Also a former County Commissioner and Renville County understand Mary that you are the chair of the first overall economic plan for the county back in the 1970s. Yes, I was and we certainly recognized agriculture as our chief industry and I've operated on that basis since but what I'm asking the panel to do is to discuss rural development as far as diversification, is it diversification within agriculture meaning some of the value added things or do you think it has to be diversification Beyond (00:43:45) agriculture for loneliness? Well, I think it has to be both. Definitely. I think there's a real real Plus. That we can get as Farmers diversify into value added and Ventures that they're putting together, but we can't stop there. I think it's vital that we bring in as much Industrial and Commercial and Manufacturing as we possibly can. I think I think if there's anything we can we can do as we can get our message to the metro area where there are vital businesses and say hey we have we have a good Workforce that that's out here ready and willing to serve you and I think we've got to get that type of economic activity going in rural Minnesota. If you look at get I just get a little bit out of the Corn Belt get up in the highway 10 area of Minnesota who are probably have a little less intensive agriculture southern Minnesota. They do have a lot more Industries and and it's much much more vibrant situation than as you get into southern Minnesota where we've been sold. And an agriculture in heaven had those those types of things take place. So I think we've we've really got to work at expanding industry into into the agricultural areas of Minnesota Marcie (00:45:05) McLaughlin and that work is being done there expansion from Urban manufacturing plants out to rural Minnesota and a couple of instances and I think you'll see that continuing some information from Minnesota Technologies is that there are over a hundred and seventy thousand people who are directly employed in technology intensive manufacturing companies in rural Minnesota and that these jobs are some of the highest paid in the economy with an average of 35 thousand dollars per year plus fringe benefits and that while manufacturing employment decreased in the u.s. At 5% it increased in Minnesota alone with 9% and much of that two-thirds of those new jobs were in rural or outside the seven-county metropolitan area now in order for this to Be successful. Those companies are going to look for strong vibrant communities who have health care who have an educational system in place who have transportation needs dealt with who have that crucial telecommunications infrastructure and frankly as I visit communities. It is very to so those that are on the ball and getting those things done are going to be the first on the docket to get those new Industries. There are people in under this tent Tom that because of their volunteer commitment to their Community have caused that to happen. So it's the community leaders within those communities that are saying as we you know, go back to the first question is there hope Yep, they're revitalizing themselves the re-energizing themselves. And Farm Fest is a classic example, if you look over at this beautiful Machinery exhibit The Historical Museum Machinery exhibit that was all done with volunteer help and it just added on to the desirability of this grounds, which has blossomed into a community place for people to gather have picnics have weddings and certainly in fuses that that critical Community spirit. (00:47:09) It's up to the communities to do it themselves many (00:47:11) cases. Oh, I think we're in a position now where unless the individuals in this under this tent in the public offices folks that are with the faith community with the youth Community. You've got to figure out how you're going to break down those old barriers and work together. (00:47:28) We have another caller mark from Sioux Falls. Go ahead with your question, please. Yeah, I guess I actually have a comment just in response to the gentleman. Who was a small printer? Can you hear me? Yes, go ahead. And I'm sorry who is the printer? And I guess I just have a response to the difference between a small business like that and agriculture why the government should support agriculture in the way it does. I'm the son of a farmer who went out of the out of business in the late 80s. I guess I would just posed to him the question. When's the last time the government imposed an embargo on his printing products and prohibited him from selling them to his customers? Well, that's what's been happening in the egg industry for decades and it's part of the thing that's got us to where we are today, and it's a very tangible reason why we should support agriculture monetarily because of those policies that the government has created. Thank you. Thanks for your question mark embargoes or something certainly talked about in the 1980s with the Russian grain embargo back in the that period of time 70s and 80s. It's something that the Corn Growers and soybean Growers and a lot of other organizations continue to work on Willis Anthony. Do you think the caller has a point embargoes being used as food policy? Perhaps being used as a weapon in some of our foreign policy. He has a very good point and we've had many years of very misguided International Trade policy. And what should we have been putting together foreign policy programs primarily as I see it generated by the state department to with little attention for commercial trade and specifically little attention for agriculture. We used food as a quote weapon, which I don't see it as a weapon at all, but that's a terribly misguided policy. And we've also not done very well domestically in terms of putting together the kind of marketing programs and resources. We need in order to produce the products the hive Your products in food that countries like Japan and others in Southeast Asia are willing to buy and we saw very recently as late as this spring when the premier of China came to the US so and made the very substantial commitments for importing agricultural Commodities and and went away empty-handed again. So many other things have been driving our foreign policy that it is been very detrimental to those of us who are depending on the export market for income. We have time for another question Russell from Minneapolis. Go ahead with your question. Yes. My question has to do with Organic farmer. I believe that farming has to be supported and I'm say said he person but I think also there is a kept another feeling and that is that I don't like to eat anything but organic foods. I have educated myself on chemical content in our food supply and it is not good picture. Look at I'm just wondering it has this become an important part of the market for Farmers yet organically grown Foods. Marcie McLaughlin organic (00:50:50) foods are a segment of the market. Probably not a very large one when you look at what Farm Fest is is exhibiting at this point, but you have a point here about the connection between rural and urban Minnesota. If it is our food source that connects us then maybe we need to look on both sides of that equation to see how we might be able to making those make those linkages also as we in rural tried to present our case to the now growing majority of the population who not only have the most people but the most representation within the legislature and back again to public policy. We need to figure out how to tell our stories that link us with Urban suburban and Rural Minnesota. So, you know, I guess I'd go back to my reoccurring theme that we are here as a state and a strong World economy is important to a strong Urban economy. To an important strong Minnesota economy. (00:51:51) We're just about out of time for our first hour of our to our call in here from Farm Fest on Minnesota Public Radio part of our citizens Forum sponsored by NPR ktc. A public television the Star Tribune and the University of Minnesota extension service. I'd like to thank our guests University of Minnesota farm management specialist Erland weenus, Marcie McLaughlin of Minnesota rural partners and Willis Anthony Farmer and Economist from Nicollet County in South Central, Minnesota will continue our program here at Farm Fest on Minnesota Public Radio. Thanks very much. Tom Rothman back to Farm Fest in just a bit as X. That is about one minute before 11 o'clock. The forecast is on the way.

Funders
Digitization made possible by the State of Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, approved by voters in 2008.

This Story Appears in the Following Collections

Views and opinions expressed in the content do not represent the opinions of APMG. APMG is not responsible for objectionable content and language represented on the site. Please use the "Contact Us" button if you'd like to report a piece of content. Thank you.

Transcriptions provided are machine generated, and while APMG makes the best effort for accuracy, mistakes will happen. Please excuse these errors and use the "Contact Us" button if you'd like to report an error. Thank you.

< path d="M23.5-64c0 0.1 0 0.1 0 0.2 -0.1 0.1-0.1 0.1-0.2 0.1 -0.1 0.1-0.1 0.3-0.1 0.4 -0.2 0.1 0 0.2 0 0.3 0 0 0 0.1 0 0.2 0 0.1 0 0.3 0.1 0.4 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.2 0.1 0.4 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.2 0 0.4-0.1 0.5-0.1 0.2 0 0.4 0 0.6-0.1 0.2-0.1 0.1-0.3 0.3-0.5 0.1-0.1 0.3 0 0.4-0.1 0.2-0.1 0.3-0.3 0.4-0.5 0-0.1 0-0.1 0-0.2 0-0.1 0.1-0.2 0.1-0.3 0-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.2 0-0.1 0-0.2 0-0.3 0-0.2 0-0.4-0.1-0.5 -0.4-0.7-1.2-0.9-2-0.8 -0.2 0-0.3 0.1-0.4 0.2 -0.2 0.1-0.1 0.2-0.3 0.2 -0.1 0-0.2 0.1-0.2 0.2C23.5-64 23.5-64.1 23.5-64 23.5-64 23.5-64 23.5-64"/>