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Walz, Vilsack discuss drought, climate change with Hmong American Farmers Association

The visit to the HAFA farm was part of the Minnesota tour which U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been on this week.

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Janssen Hang, executive director of Hmong American Farmers Association, speaks with Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, at the HAFA farm in Hastings, Minnesota. Noah Fish / Agweek

HASTINGS, Minnesota — Agricultural and Minnesota state leaders were on hand Friday, Aug. 13, to discuss this year's drought at the farm site of the Hmong American Farmers Association .

HAFA was formed in 2011 as a way for Hmong farmers to overcome the barriers that exist for them.

"It's been an honor to have Secretary Vilsack here to really recognize the struggles of the drought in our communities," said Janssen Hang, executive director of HAFA. "But the true underlying issue is the issue of equity."

At the farm Friday along with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack were Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. The group was at the farm in Dakota County to highlight the work of HAFA farmers and discuss the impacts of the drought and changing climate.

On the site, which is about 15 minutes south of St. Paul, HAFA subleases plots of land to its members who are experienced Hmong farm families. On that land, they can hone their operations and then sell their products through the markets set up by HAFA . Farmers sell their products to the HAFA Food Hub, which encompasses community supported agriculture shares, schools, retailers and institutions.

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"There are people who want agriculture to pit against one another — production agriculture or small farming like here today — or it's row crops or specialty crops," said Vilsack. "Minnesota has figured out that the strength is in diversity."

The drought has impacted many HAFA farmers, whom Hang said spend between 14-16 hours out in the field each day. That includes Mai Moua, who spoke to Vilsack and state leaders about how the transition from cold weather to extremely hot weather this year was bad for germination of her crops. This year, she wasn't even able to pick vegetables such as green beans.

"Our systems have to be redesigned to deal with this new reality," said Vilsack of climate change. "To create a longer standing and greater commitment over time, to producer to be able to keep them in business and keep them on the farm."

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