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Eunice Biel adds another leadership role to her service

Biel, a longtime leader for the Minnesota Farmers Union, is the new chairwoman for the Farm Service Agency state committee.

Biel family.jpg
The Biel family on their farm near Harmony, Minnesota.
Contributed / Minnesota Farmers Union
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Agweek Podcast: Eunice Biel, chairwoman of Minnesota's FSA state committee
Fri May 27 14:27:25 EDT 2022
Agweek reporter Noah Fish talks with Eunice Biel, a dairy and crop farmer from Harmony in Fillmore County, Minnesota. Biel is also the new chairperson of Minnesota's Farm Service Agency state committee, along with holding several other leadership roles in agriculture. Biel talks about the history of their farm as well as her and her family's history with Minnesota Farmers Union and more.

HARMONY, Minn. ― In southern Minnesota, there's not a more active advocate for agriculture than Eunice Biel.

Biel, who goes by Eunie, is the new chairwoman for the Farm Service Agency state committee. She's a longtime leader in Minnesota Farmers Union.

"I've been in the Farmers Union probably all my life," said Biel. "My father was a Farmers Union chairman for Fillmore County and my mother was one of the first attendees of the Ladies' Fly-ins in the '60s."

She said she didn't know until after she got married that her husband's family was also very active in the Farmers Union.

"One day in the '90s, someone from Farmers Union came to see my husband and said 'Would you please be the Fillmore County Farmers Union president?'" said Biel. "And my husband said, 'No, but my wife will.'"

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She's been the Fillmore County Farmers Union president ever since.

"Nobody has challenged me and tried to take the job away," she said with a laugh. "But anyone is welcome — it's maybe getting time to be someone new."

Along with being the Fillmore County Farmers Union president, Biel is also vice president of the Rural Investment to Protect our Environment board of directors. She's also a Fillmore County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor and a board member of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and Center for Rural Policy Development.

"I like to know that what is happening in agriculture, and we have to advocate for agriculture," said Biel, who used to work at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

She said at her Mayo job she'd overhear people say things that weren't true about farmers or the agriculture industry, and she'd use her knowledge as an advocate to teach the truth.

"I've always known the facts, so I can rebut them, and intelligently," she said.

A family affair

The Biel farm family members, consisting of grandparents Eunice and Bob, their son Kevin and daughter-in-law Kelly, and grandchildren Kayla, Kelsey, Krissy, Klaudia, Kenny, Kora and Klara, who all pitch in at their 210-head dairy operation in southeast Minnesota, just a couple miles north of the Iowa border.

"We also raise all of our feed for our livestock," said Biel.

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The family raises all of their young stock on their land, including steers. They sell milk to Associated Milk Producers' Rochester plant, where it's used mostly for cheese production along with some milk going to the Kemps plant to be sold as fluid milk.

On top of the dairy operation, the family also farms about 1,200 acres of crops, said Biel, within a 5-mile radius spread out over three townships.

The rolling farmland was purchased by Bob’s grandparents in the 1930s during the Great Depression, and Eunice grew up on her family’s dairy farm — which was a century farm — about three miles away.

"I've always lived around this area in Minnesota," said Biel. "It's good farmland — not real hilly and not real flat, but some very good farmland."

Chairing the FSA state committee

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Biel as the new chair of the FSA's state committee, along with four other appointments to the committee.

Members of the FSA state committee are appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and are responsible for the oversight of farm programs and county committee operations, resolving program delivery appeals, maintaining cooperative relations with industry stakeholders and keeping producers informed about FSA programs.

Biel said she was honored to be selected for the committee.

"It meant a lot, because I've always wanted to be appointed," she said. "When I was chosen, I was very thankful, and very happy for that."

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Three out of the five appointees to the state committee are women.

"I think that's reflective of the value of women in agricultural leadership," said Biel. "Women have always been a driving force in agriculture, but they're realizing more and more."

Noah Fish is a multimedia journalist who creates print, online and TV content for Agweek. He's also the host of the Agweek Podcast. He covers a wide range of farmers and agribusinesses throughout Minnesota and surrounding states. He can be reached at nfish@agweek.com

He reports out of Rochester, MN, where he lives with his wife, Kara, and their polite cat, Zena. He grew up in La Crosse, WI, and enjoys the talent from his home state like the 13-time World Champion Green Bay Packers and Grammy award-winning musicians Justin Vernon and Al Jarreau.
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