UTICA, Minn. — Over 100 family farmers and rural residents gathered in Utica May 11 to discuss federal agricultural policy reforms during a special Land Stewardship Project (LSP) meeting with U.S. Rep. Tim Walz. Participants in the meeting made it clear that the 2018 Farm Bill needs to support family farms, conservation, beginning farmers and rural communities. Walz and other members of the House Agriculture Committee are in the process of drafting the 2018 Farm Bill.
Tom Nuessmeier, a farmer from Le Sueur, Minn., and an LSP staff member, spoke about the financial crisis facing family farms. With the increased corporate consolidation in agriculture, Nuessmeier said, “We need a Farm Bill that puts people, the land and communities first. We need the 2018 Farm Bill to be our Farm Bill.”
Winona farmer Bryan Crigler spoke about the difficulties beginning farmers face, including limited access to land and the slowness with which USDA Farm Service Agency loan applications are processed.
“There are a lot of challenges for people to get into farming,” said Crigler.
He also emphasized the need for investment in a more vibrant local food systems infrastructure, which would help farmers who are trying to capture more of the economic value of their production.
Myron Sylling of Spring Grove, Minn., spoke about how the use of cover crops has dramatically reduced erosion on his 1,300-acre corn and soybean farm He called for more support for farmers who are undertaking practices that sustain and build soil health.
Lewiston, Minn., farmer Jennifer Rupprecht also talked about the need for policy that supports farms using practices that are good for the environment. She asked Rep. Walz to champion soil health by increasing conservation payments for cover crops and resource conserving crop rotations in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
Rupprecht also pressed the Representative to reform federally subsidized crop insurance by requiring recipients of premium subsidies to utilize practices that build, rather than destroy, soil health.
“It makes sense that if I drive better I get better auto insurance. If I farm better I should get better crop insurance premiums,” said Rupprecht. “Minnesota needs a real leader, someone who will stand up to insurance companies and interests who refuse to let the program evolve and adapt.”
Rep. Walz agreed to fight to increase CSP payments and spoke about the need to bring people together to work for a broad consensus on making the crop insurance program work for more farmers. He also agreed to meet with LSP in the future as development of the 2018 Farm Bill progresses.
A copy of LSP’s Farm Bill position paper, “Our Farm Bill: Re-imagining U.S. Farm Policy that puts People, Communities & the Land First,” is available at https://landstewardshipproject.org/repository/1/2045/our_farm_bill_2_4_17.pdf.