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Minnesota Legislative Candidate Ag Forum

Fri, Oct 12th, 2012
Posted in All Agriculture

By Karen Reisner

Local candidates answered questions from Dave Mensink, Fillmore County Pork Producers, and Jeff Eickhoff, Fillmore County Farm Bureau, at a forum hosted by the Southeast Minnesota Ag Alliance. The candidate ideas were broadcast live on KFIL radio on Thursday evening, October 4. A similar event will be held in Dodge County on October 16.

Rep. Greg Davids (IR - House 28B) and his opponent Ken Tschumper (DFL- House 28B), Jeremy Miller (IR-Senate 28) and his opponent Jack Krage (DFL - Senate 28), and Mike Benson (IR - House 26B) each detailed their answers to questions concerning agriculture.

Mensink asked about the growing debate on mandating certain farm practices and whether there should be legislative oversight on crop planting practices.

Tschumper: Noting he doesn’t know what the question referred to for sure, he said there was a voluntary agreement to achieve water quality standards in the Minnesota River Valley.

Krage: Was in support of protecting aquifers, plant and fish life. He added nitrates are a concern.

Miller: Based on the feedback he has heard from farmers, they are fed up with regulations. Farmers are the best stewards of their land. Supports self regulation and was against more regulation.

Benson: There already is a duplication of standards. Farmers know best and are good stewards.

Davids: Excessive regulations are harmful. Let farmers self regulate.

Eickhoff asked if they support restrictions over and above current regulations on pesticides.

Krage: No. However, there needs to be some regulation as there have been contaminated wells from over fertilization.

Miller: No more regulation. Farmers know their land best. We need to work with the farmers.

Benson: No more regulation needed beyond what the federal government has in place.

Davids: I have not supported more regulation.

Tschumper: There are over 200 farmers in Fillmore County alone that receive over $1 million in direct farm payments, and one over $2 million. The public invests a lot in farming and can expect to be protected. Farmers have to work with state agencies.

Mensink asked about whether livestock feedlots of all sizes should be permitted. Now, only those over a certain size require permitting.

Miller: Was not sure why there would be a need for additional permitting.

Benson: If the issue came to the Ag Committee, there would be attention given to this issue. However, he would not want to force additional regulation on any size of operation.

Davids: No. But, would listen to any debate. His question would be if the size needing permitting could go up.

Tschumper: Being the only one here with livestock, he said he has an open lot agreement. There are a lot of small feedlots in Fillmore and Houston Counties. The system is working pretty well as is.

Krage: The lower limits should be raised. It is over regulated, as it doesn’t take that many animals for a feedlot.

Eickhoff asked about the regulation of antibiotics for farm animals or a possible ban.

Benson: Opposed any attempt to eliminate the use of antibiotics. The research isn’t convincing that there should be more regulation or a ban.

Davids: Leave the law as it is.

Tschumper: As a dairy farmer, federal regulations on antibiotics are already very strict, adding that the dairy industry puts out a tremendous product today.

Krage: The regulations are good now and agreed with the quality of the dairy industry product compared to several decades ago.

Miller: Would propose no changes.

Mensink asked about animal care practices as related to size of cages or stalls.

Davids: Acknowledged a movement to change farrowing practices and space for chickens. The laws are good as they are.

Tschumper: Noted there are referendums on this issue in various states. A lot of large restaurant chains are demanding a change. The ag industry needs to sit down and work this out with these groups as we are out numbered on this issue.

Krage: He agreed with Tschumper, adding that the public understands little about the livestock industry and farmers need to answer this outcry.

Miller: Again, hesitant to add any additional regulation.

Benson: Opposed from the economic standpoint alone. What kind of impact would these kind of restrictions have on the price of food?

Eickhoff asked if they supported or opposed state labeling requirements for genetically engineered organisms in food.

Tschumper: Warned that if California passed a referendum on this issue, it would put pressure on other states. The debate could heat up more with Europe. It will be costly.

Krage: Genetically engineered products present no health risk, calling it more of a moral or ethical issue. No reason to change.

Miller: Agree it will become a bigger issue. It could be heard in the Ag Committee, but he didn’t support additional regulation.

Benson: Just about everything is genetically engineered in some way. It should only be addressed if it is driven by the market from Europe and other places.

Davids: Opposes any more labeling requirements, adding the state doesn’t need to step in.

Mensink acknowledged the current drought conditions, asking do you think the ethanol mandate should be removed to level the playing field among all corn users?

Krage: No, it is just supply and demand.

Miller: Acknowledged it has been a difficult year and there is a shortage of corn. It is tough for dairy and other livestock producers, but hesitant to make any changes.

Benson: Not in favor of removing the ethanol mandate.

Davids: Noted there still is the feed by product from the ethanol producing process. Livestock producers are hurting. There should be some debate.

Tschumper: There is a big debate on a national level. Livestock groups are petitioning for a waiving of the renewable fuel standard. Livestock producers won’t be able to survive with continuing high grain prices. There needs to be a balance established between the two industries.

Eickhoff asked about the wolf control program and what should be the funding source.

Miller: The issue in this area is deer. The DNR has hired a management specialist in southeast Minnesota for deer. A program is in place whether for deer or wolves.

Benson: Would support controlling wolf population with the money coming from licenses and fees.

Davids: A program is in place. A farmer should be able to protect his livestock.

Tschumper: The issue in southeast Minnesota is deer. Farmers get reimbursed for damages. Funding for this program needs to be kept in place.

Krage: Farmers should be able to protect their livestock. Harvesting should be controlled and just in particular areas.

Eickhoff asked about the funding source for the compensation program for damages.

Benson: Most wolves are trapped through a very managed process. The funding source should be the general fund.

Davids: The Ag Finance Bill will determine funding and he will make sure it is fully funded.

Tschumper: It should be fully funded and is a relatively small amount of money.

Krage: Should be a designated fund.

Miller: Should be fully funded with general fund or fees.

Mensink asked if the Livestock Investment Grant Program should be converted to a credit.

Davids: Should look at that and would be open to it.

Tschumper: Makes more sense than a grant, doesn’t burden the budget directly, and would make it more widely available.

Krage: It is better to see results and give a credit.

Miller: A tax credit could be an efficiency.

Benson: Agree, it is a great idea.

Eickhoff asked if they support more state regulation as related to water management. (Note: After Tschumper’s response, Eickhoff clarified that he was referring to tiling and drainage.)

Tschumper: Farming is dependent on good water resources. Agencies need to be clear on their objectives. He noted he was concerned about ground water and cited the 2007 flooding that caused lagoons to overflow.

Krage: No reason for the state to impose another hurdle.

Miller: Does not support any additional regulation, especially if duplicating federal law.

Benson: Agreed with Miller. These are tough economic times. We all want to protect the environment.

Davids: Everyone wants high quality water, but we don’t need additional layers of regulation above the federal regulations.

Olmsted Corn Growers wanted to know what support there could be for federal crop insurance.

Benson: Many farmers are struggling with the drought. At the state level, we can put pressure on federal legislators for a farm bill. Assistance is needed before January.

Davids: We need robust crop insurance as a safety net. At the state level we can contact federal elected officials and express our concerns.

Tschumper: Every farmer (me included) wants a farm bill to be passed. It has been stalled because Tea Party Republicans want to cut food stamps. Farmers raise food. Food stamps make more funds available to purchase that food.

Krage: People he meets while campaigning including farmers will echo their opinions to those newly elected.

Miller: Disappointed the farm bill didn’t pass on the federal level.

Closing Statements

Benson: Farming is the second largest industry in the state. Most have been somewhat spared from the drought. Farm families are effected by the rest of the economy. The state budget must be managed to stay within the limits of incoming revenue. It is irresponsible to raise taxes. Empathize with livestock producers concerning the high price of grains and the competing use of those grains for producing ethanol.

Davids: We turned a $6 billion shortfall into a $1.3 billion surplus. He expressed disappointment in the governor’s veto of a GOP attempt to lower business property taxes.

Tschumper: Was disappointed that there was not one question on what he called the Greg Davids property tax increase. He differs sharply with Davids on the budget, maintaining that money that should have gone to school districts was shifted (borrowed from schools). Property taxes should not be raised again. Supports the governor’s proposed tax increase on millionaires. The budget has been cut so much that it forced the closing of Fillmore Family Resources and four people lost their jobs.

Krage: The Republican legislature eliminated the homestead credit, deferred payments to schools. The deferred payment makes for a deficit; there is no surplus. Candidates need to talk straight.

Miller: We will keep working hard, adding he is frustrated with the extreme partisanship. Thanked all farmers for their work that they do for us in this state.

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