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Published July 09, 2012, 09:35 AM

Disaster programs aid farmers

The heavy rain and floods that recently swept through parts of Minnesota created real problems for cities such as Duluth and Moose Lake.

By: Dave Frederickson, Agweek

ST. PAUL — The heavy rain and floods that recently swept through parts of Minnesota created real problems for cities such as Duluth and Moose Lake.

They also created problems for local farmers and others growing food, whether it’s a backyard garden, a small vegetable farm or a community-supported agriculture operation.

While there are a variety of crop insurance options for farmers, not everyone who grows food in Minnesota has access to the kind of coverage they need to deal with a summer storm that ruins their crops. Fortunately, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has a program to help farmers dealing with these kinds of natural — and personal — disasters.

The Minnesota Farmer Assistance Network provides financial guidance, technical assistance and mentoring to farm families facing economic hardship. By calling the toll-free MFAN helpline, 877-898-MFAN (6326), farmers can be connected to appropriate resources such as farm business management instructors, extension educators and other expert financial analysts. MFAN also helps farmers find legal guidance, tax advice and 24-hour crisis counseling. The service is available at no-cost to farmers statewide, and MFAN is careful to keep callers’ information confidential.

MFAN is administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Rural Finance Authority, but it involves a long list of organizations working together to provide resources on behalf of farmers in need. Partnering organizations are the University of Minnesota Extension Service; Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Farm Business Management and Rural Mental Health Programs; Crisis Connection, Sowing the Seeds of Hope; MDA’s Farm Advocate Program; Farmer-Lender Mediation; Farmers Legal Action Group; U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency; Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development; and county and faith-based social service agencies.

MFAN is a natural fit for MDA, since a core part of our mission is to strengthen Minnesota’s agricultural economy. But it only works if farmers in need pick up the phone and call 877-898-MFAN. For more details, visit the MFAN website at www.mda.state.

mn.us/mfan or send an email to mfan.mda@state.mn.us.

Editor’s Note: Frederickson is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

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