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Top Senate Ag Committee members hear southeast Minnesota farm bill priorities

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar hosted U.S. Sen. John Boozman, the lead Republican and ranking member of committee, on a tour of meetings with farm bill stakeholders in Minnesota.

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Tony and Michelle Rossman, owners of Rossman Farms Genetics, talk with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Sen. John Boozman at a farm bill tour stop Oronoco, Minnesota, on April 21, 2023.
Noah Fish / Agweek

ORONOCO, Minn. β€” As work continues on the next farm bill, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, the lead Republican and ranking member of the committee, made stops in Minnesota on April 21, starting at a farm in southeast Minnesota.

Klobuchar hosted Boozman on a tour of meetings with farmers, conservation groups, nutrition leaders and other agricultural researchers and businesses.

β€œWe have a long and proud tradition of working across the aisle on a strong farm bill that meets the needs of our farmers and producers,” Klobuchar said. β€œThat’s why, as we continue working on the 2023 Farm Bill, I’m excited to welcome Sen. Boozman to Minnesota to learn firsthand about the priorities of our farmers and rural communities.”

Boozman said that the Senate Agriculture Committee has a "rich history of working in a bipartisan fashion ."

"One that continues to this day," Boozman said. "I appreciate Sen. Klobuchar inviting me to join her in Minnesota to learn more about the needs of producers and rural communities in her state. The most valuable input we get for the 2023 Farm Bill will come from stakeholders on the ground, so these visits are a very important part of the process."

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Rossman Farms

Klobuchar and Boozman heard from the owners of Rossman Farms Genetics, Tony and Michelle Rossman, who leveraged their longtime experience in the cattle and food industries when they moved onto Tony's family's land and began building a family and program focused on producing elite Angus and Simmental seedstock.

Michelle Rossman serves as the Olmsted County commissioner in District 5. Tony's father, Jim Rossman, also served as an Olmsted County commissioner. He couldn't recall any U.S. senators visiting the farm before his son and daughter-in-law took over the operation.

"It could have happened in the (Hubert) Humphrey days, I suppose," Jim Rossman said as they waited for Boozman and Klobuchar to arrive.

"All parts of agriculture are part of it and are affected by it," Rossman said of the farm bill. "I always thought the farm bill should play the role of stabilizer, to take the craziness out of the ag system."

That system covers a wide range of producers, all of whom want to be considered in the package of legislation passed roughly every five years.

"Everybody has their niche, you know, the milk guys want this, corn and bean guys want that, the wheat guys have their needs. Everybody wants something," Rossman said. "But I think we're mostly focused on production agriculture, and what we're doing and how we're doing it, with cover crops and things like that."

There should be funding in the farm bill to back sustainable systems like the ones put in place by the Rossman family decades ago, said Jim Rossman.

"There should not be rewards, but incentives to do some of this basic stuff that's good for the whole country," he said.

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Farm Bureau priorities

Klobuchar's attention was pulled for a moment during the tour to a sweet infant napping quietly away from the crowd in Oronoco, who belonged to Jason and Caitlin Keck.

They represent Minnesota on the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. Jason Keck said one priority for the next farm bill is to promote conservation efforts but not penalize producers in the process of adopting them.

"There's a lot of people that see the benefits of (conservation), and there's a lot of adoption on it right now, and it's building," Keck said. "And there's a lot of programs out there to help guys with no-till, strip-till, cover crops, and that's something that's been really good."

But conservation shouldn't be tied to crop insurance, he said.

"For example on our farm, we're going to strip-till, and I'm working with the generation before me, who isn't sold on that at all," Keck said. "We're working towards that. It's just a slow process, and if you were to force us to do that, the generation before might dig their heels in a little bit."

Jeff Pagel is a dairy farmer in Eyota, who after a special district caucus held on March 3 was elected to the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors. He said his farm uses a similar crop rotation to Rossman Farms which they switched to years ago to be more sustainable.

"We've been doing it for five, six years, and we probably tweak it every year," Pagel said. "Just trying to make it better."

Pagel said he hopes the next farm bill addresses enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program so people "chasing the money" don't end up with all the land.

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"The CRP rates have driven land rent quite a bit," Pagel said.

As a dairy farmer, Pagel said he sees no issue with how the current farm bill impacts his industry.

"Typically in a farm bill, it comes down to dairies not happy about something, but I would say for the most part, dairies are probably pretty happy," Pagel said. "Just make sure you can keep the (Dairy Margin Coverage) program in there, and maybe a couple little tweaks but nothing nothing major."

Minnesota Farm Bureau President Dan Glessing listed crop insurance β€” and not tying it to conservation measures β€” and updating the DMC and CRP rates as priorities for the next farm bill. He said he hopes the farm bill is done by September and does not require an extension to finish.

"I certainly think today was a demonstration of the bipartisan support that we have in the ag committee. We were (in D.C.) a few weeks ago, and there's optimism that this can get done on a timely fashion, which in our opinion, it should be," Glessing said. "We've had a good farm bill, we need to do some tweaks and tunes to this farm bill to get the next one. So it's not going to be a revolutionary farm bill, but it's going to help us in the long run, and not be a major overhaul."

Noah Fish is a multimedia journalist who creates print, online and TV content for Agweek. 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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