Minnesota ag leaders ask that 'safety nets' remain in place in 2023 Farm Bill
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith on Wednesday, April 20, met with state agriculture group leaders to talk about provisions that should be included in the next federal Farm Bill.
BURNSVILLE, Minn. — About a dozen agriculture industry leaders on Wednesday, April 20, met with Sen. Tina Smith to discuss top concerns facing Minnesota farmers and ranchers and to start laying the groundwork for a 2023 Farm Bill.
The vast agriculture and nutrition policy and spending plan will take months or more to pull together. And Smith said that the meeting at Minnesota Corn Growers Association offices would be the first of many around the state aimed at gathering feedback about what Congress could do to support the state's agriculture community.
Commodity group leaders said the spread of highly contagious avian influenza in the state, expensive inputs to grow crops or raise animals and limited shipping container spaces to transport goods to potential buyers caused additional stress for producers. A day earlier, state and federal leaders met in Willmar, Minnesota, to discuss the state's approach to mitigating the spread of the avian flu and said they'd work quickly to help producers make up lost revenue if their flocks were sickened with the illness. The flu has sickened roughly 2 million birds in Minnesota and is not believed to pose a health risk to humans.
To offset some of those pressing issues, state agriculture leaders on Wednesday asked federal lawmakers to make sure insurance options remained in place for farmers in the upcoming Farm Bill and limit regulations that could have unintended consequences.
“We need a safety net out there," Bob Worth, vice president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, said, pointing to the help that crop insurance from a prior Farm Bill provided to row-crop farmers hit by historic drought conditions in 2021. “I really want you to think about the Farm Bill and tweak it maybe, but don’t completely rewrite it because it is a good Farm Bill."
Several of the group leaders said they expected additional conservation efforts would be included in the next bill but urged Smith to oppose efforts to tie crop insurance benefits to conservation program participation. Smith told reporters that she wasn't aware of efforts to connect the insurance to those programs but would oppose such a move.
They also asked that the federal government review rules that might be outdated or that can pose problems to farmers already in a bind. Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen pointed to a delay from the federal government in allowing herds to graze on Conservation Reserve Program lands last summer when the dry weather made other food sources scarce. The block on CRP acres posed too high a hurdle for some, he said.
"We lost a lot of farms this year and because of that people aren't going to have cattle back on their farms," Petersen said. "We're trying to get more people into farming but we don't have the flexibility that could've saved farmers."
Overall, much of the existing Farm Bill was producing positive effects for farmers and ranchers, the leaders told Smith. And she said she'd aim to keep those pieces in place moving forward.
“I heard pretty clearly that we have a good foundation for a Farm Bill … there are a lot of things that are working,” Smith said. "There's always things that we can do to make it work better, but that we don't need to throw the baby out with the bathwater in terms of moving forward with that."