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Commissioner's priorities out of order

BROWERVILLE, Minn. -- In a recent editorial ("Ag industry in good shape for now," Dec. 8, Page 5.), Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson makes the claim that the overriding concerns of Minnesota livestock farmers are permitting issues....

BROWERVILLE, Minn. -- In a recent editorial ("Ag industry in good shape for now," Dec. 8, Page 5.), Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson makes the claim that the overriding concerns of Minnesota livestock farmers are permitting issues. By this, he means local control is problematic. Once again, Hugoson is beating the drum for corporate ag-backed factory farms.

It is not family farmers that have problems with township local control. Township officials are our neighbors and very often fellow farmers. It's outside, corporate-backed outfits that want to force their way into communities that don't want to deal with township or county officials. These are the special interest groups that have a problem with local control and these are the special interests Hugoson is looking out for. These corporate operations want decisions moved to St. Paul where they would have more influence and local residents would have less.

I am a township officer and retired lifelong dairy farmer, and I know strong local democracy is good for family farmers and rural communities. There are many other issues Hugoson could better spend time on, including:

โ€ข The disastrous changes to the Green Acres program made last legislative session that make it more difficult for farmers to keep their entire farms enrolled in the program and keep their property taxes at an affordable level.

โ€ข Rising land costs that make it difficult for beginning farmers to get started.

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โ€ข Developing plan to keep more people owning and operating farms that help maintain rural communities and giving farmers opportunities to move away from the corporate ag structure that often is harmful to rural communities and the environment.

But these issues aren't bothering the corporate ag interests that Hugoson has made it his priority to serve. In his editorial, Hugoson says the ag community should "stick together." That's his way of saying he doesn't want any farmers or farm groups to object to his plans to move a corporate ag agenda forward at the expense of family farmers. The commissioner and corporate ag interests keep pushing to weaken township powers. But the truth is that Minnesotans value local control and will stand up for it.

-- Alan Perish

Editor's Note: Perish is a retired farmer from Browerville, Minn.

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