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Panel discusses Farm Bill in changing world

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Four-year-old Logan Fischer of Sleepy Eye finishes second in pedal pull competition at Farmfest Wednesday.

GILFILLAN ESTATE — A panel of agricultural leaders discussed farm and tax policy recommendations and what the next Farm Bill might look like in a variety of ways at Farmfest Wednesday.

“The last Farm Bill is about as good as we’ll get. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. We need to be careful and keep what we have,” said former U.S. House Agriculture committee Chairman Colin Peterson.

He advised producers to get crop insurance for years like we’re having now.

“It’s hard to find a one size fits all national program,” said Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap.

Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish said the Farm Bill is really a rural development bill.

Murdock farmer Mike Yost said the best farm policy is a market oriented policy.

“There are almost no Democrats left in farm districts,” Peterson said. “You can’t make anything stick with just one party. Angie Craig has done an outstanding job. She’s doing her homework. I wish we had more people like her.”

Peterson said there are politicians on the ag committee now without an ag background.

“It’s a big problem. It’ll take lots of working together because people don’t know any better,” Peterson said. “I’m optimistic about agriculture but not so optimistic about the country. All these cable TV companies putting out false information. I’m not so sure we can come back from that.”

Incoming National Cattleman’s Beef Association President Don Schiefelbein said we now have more cattle to harvest than hooks to hang them on.

“Beef demand is at record levels. There’s a big imbalance,” said Schiefelbein. “We need to reinvigorate trust and strengthen oversight, but be careful how far we engage the government.”

Wertish said the only farm numbers growing are small, direct-marketing vegetable farms. He said programs for them should be expanded.

Yost said a road map is needed, but said he’s heard producers should not buy carbon credits yet because they will grow in value and be consumer-driven.

Peterson said we’ve got a climate problem.

“Trouble is, nobody knows what they’re doing,” said Peterson. “People want to create markets for corn for carbon sequestration. We need research, more information to figure out what the hell we’re doing. Let’s not spend a bunch of money on something that doesn’t do any good. I’ll stay engaged on this.”

Peterson said the problem with crop disaster programs is money is being given away without anybody paying for it.

“We need something that farmers and the government pay for,” he said.

Schiefelbein said the LRP (Livestock Risk Protection) program (designed to insure against declining livestock market prices) needs to be functional.

A northwest Iowa farmer suggested limiting crop insurance to big producers to prevent driving young farmers out.

“Limiting crop insurance subsidies is a bad idea,” said Peterson. “Big producers provide the basis for it. It’s a fine balance. The new ag committee doesn’t have the expertise or understanding. This bothers me.”

Peterson said 1031 exchanges swapping one investment property for another allowing capital gains to be deferred is worse.

“Farm land needs to be exchanged for farm land. Big real estate developers use it to avoid paying property taxes,” Peterson added.

Minnesota Farm Bureau President Tom Haag said producers need to be active in ag organizations.

“If you’re not at the table, you’re going to get lost. Let your voice be heard in an organization,” Haag said.

Following a panel discussion of challenges facing women in the ag industry beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday, the Women Farmers of the Year will be named.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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