Farmers Union president takes swing at Washington
BROWN COUNTY — Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish said the farm crisis is getting worse as time goes on.
Speaking at the Brown County Farmers Union Convention at Searles Bar & Grill Thursday night, Wertish said farmers are getting a raw deal with loser commodity prices due to a trade war with China. He said farmers are getting it at both ends because if they try to build more metal storage facilities to keep soybeans, they have to pay more due to steel tariffs.
“Right now, farming is a struggle. There’s no doubt about it. Tariffs are really hurting us,” Wertish said.
At a recent event with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Wertish said he disagreed with much of what was said.
“He said agriculture is not as bad now as the 1980s, that working capital is better” Wertish said. “I disagree. In the 1980s, you could fix your tractor with bailing wire. Not any more. You have to pay $150 an hour to have someone fix it now. It costs more to plant now too. We need to keep speaking out on this.”
Wertish said he told Perdue tariffs are really hurting farmers and that young farmers can’t survive them.
“It was disappointing,” Wertish said. “He didn’t want to take questions, but I grabbed him by the arm and talked to him. It may take six, eight or ten years to take on China. We disagree with the United States going at it alone instead of a worldwide affair. I said there are farmers who won’t survive 10 years like this. Some farmers can’t get loans for next year now. I don’t think going alone against China will pay dividends for us.”
Wertish said a trade war will hurt rural America, including small communities, as more industries are dragged into it.
“We already have depressed prices. We don’t have time to wait in a crisis situation,” Wertish said. “Soybeans don’t cash flow. Some guys are finding out some elevators won’t bid on soybeans now. We can’t leave them on the ground for long, they’ll spoil. We’re in a global economy whether we like it or not.”
Wertish said the current Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30, but he thinks it will be extended through the end of the year.
“We need more money in the Farm Bill,” Wertish said. “A good Farm Bill could save some smaller dairies.”
Wertish said bankers came up short in the 1980s farm crisis but they won’t this time.
In addition, Wertish said Perdue is proposing to move agriculture research stations out of Washington, D.C.
“We oppose that,” Wertish said. “We’ll lose a lot of important research.”
He encouraged people to get out and vote in November.
“Our government is only as good as the people we elect to run it,” Wertish said. “My wife and I have been Renville election judges. Some of the biggest complainers we’ve heard don’t even vote.”
Sigel Township farmer Ron Seitz received the Service To Agriculture Award. Seitz was humble, crediting Farmers Union member Alphonse Mathiowetz for supplying the gas and vehicle for both of them to attend many Farmers Union conventions and trips to the Minnesota Legislature. The Seitz farm now has four generations of family farmers.
Fritz Busch can be emailed at email@example.com.