SAINT PAUL, Minn. — The crisis facing family farmers and how our state leaders can take meaningful action will be the focus of a special hearing of the Minnesota House of Representatives’ Agriculture and Food Policy and Finance Division on Thursday, Jan. 31, beginning at 9:45 a.m., in Room 200 of the State Office Building in Saint Paul. Legislators will be hearing testimony from farmers such as Chris Mosel, a Land Stewardship Project (LSP) member who raises crops and livestock near Holdingford, Minn.
“In the midst of a crisis where family farmers, especially dairy farmers, are struggling to stay on the land, it’s the duty of our state to take meaningful action,” Mosel said. “We have state programs that have a track record of helping farmers, but they need the funds to address the growing crisis.”
The Land Stewardship Project supports increasing funding for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Farm Advocates program to $328,000 annually, which would be a $108,000 increase. LSP also supports a state grant for Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG). Both groups offer critical resources to family farmers facing financial or legal troubles.
Farm Advocates was co-founded by the late Lou Anne Kling, who became a nationally known expert on farm advocacy during the 1980s farm crisis, and later served as the deputy administrator of the USDA's farm loan programs. Kling, who farmed near Granite Falls, Minn., also served on LSP’s board of directors. Farm Advocates provides free services to farmers and works to ensure they know their legal rights. The program also assists with mediation or negotiation with lenders and provides financial information and advice.
Similarly, FLAG provides critical resources, trainings and workshops for struggling farmers and farm advocates. A bill (H.F. 158) to provide a $168,000 grant to FLAG, authored by Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL—North Mankato), is being heard in the Jan. 31 hearing. Passing this bill is crucial as FLAG develops plans to use this grant to create additional workshops, guides for farmers facing bankruptcy, guides for farmers needing mental health resources, and more, according to Mosel.
“Farmers are critical to viable rural communities,” he said. “Increased funding for our Farm Advocates and providing a grant to FLAG sends a clear message that our state leaders are prioritizing rural communities and keeping family farmers on the land.”