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Walz urges vaccinations, unity

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz makes a point in his keynote address at Minnesota Farmfest Wednesday. The event concludes at 4 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 6 at Gilfillan Estate.

GILFILLAN ESTATE — In a keynote Farmfest address Wednesday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz urged people to not let their pandemic anger tear families and communities apart.

“This can’t divide us. Get vaccinated so you can vote against me if you want to. I don’t give a damn about the voting side of it. That will work itself out,” Walz said. “Lots of people are really angry this year. Nobody hates wearing face masks more than me. It’s been challenging, difficult. I want to thank some of you for calling me and letting me know if I got it wrong.”

Walz said it’s things like plane wrecks that get in the news, rather than the stories of things that went right.

“We have hospital workers doing double shifts an entire year. There were family businesses that sacrificed to protect others and weren’t compensated the way they thought they should be. It caused great angst among people,” Walz said. “I can tell you time and time again, in the worst of times, the spirit of folks rose up, helping a family member, neighbor or friend.”

Walz said he visited Clinton, where an elevator burned, and there were photos of big flames in the newspaper and the nursing home was evacuated.

“They need to go back the tell the other story. Nineteen rural fire departments responded to that fire,” said Walz. “Area businesses stepped up. The grocery store opened up and gave everything it could to firefighters. A gas station filled people’s gas tanks without charging them.”

Congresswoman Angie Craig and other panelists discussed how the expansion of ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable fuels fit into the Clean EnergyPlan and the opportunties and limitations of wind, solar, and electric energy.

“Corn ethanol and biodiesel need to be available across the country today. These are the bills I’m working on,” Craig said.

State Sen. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls said there are ways to work together across the board.

“We’re at an energy crossroads now,” Dahms said. “Minnesota adopted the California Clean Car rules requiring the end of combustible fuel by 2035. If we do that, we’ll have to figure out how to get rid of biofuels like biodiesel. Let’s work on some common sense energy policy.”

Minnesota Soybean Growers Association board member Bob Worth of Worthington called biodiesel “clean and better” than fossil fuel.

“We need an all of the above energy strategy and include family farms in the discussion,” said Craig.

Dahms said the move to electric cars is going “much faster than the market is ready for” because more charging stations and cost-based analysis is needed.

“Don’t get all your information from Facebook. I don’t think it’s a good source,” said Worth. “Why aren’t we moving forward more with biodiesel. It replenishes itself every year, not once in a million years like fossil fuel.”

Minnesota Corn Growers Association President Tim Waibel said he spent $8,000 one month last winter to heat one of his barns with natural gas instead of the usual $2,500 for a month of winter heating.

“The (price) spikes are killing us. We need to get rid of the shafting of small people,” said Waibel.

Albert Robertson described himself as an inventor and said solid state batteries could be charged with magnets, copper and hemp graphene.

“We have the technology to run an electric car from coast to coast without charging it. How can you help me put this on the market?” said Robertson.

Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Grace Arnold suggested Small Business Association low interest loans.

Arnold suggested producers check their eligibility for premium tax credits, refundable credits that help people and families cover health insurance premiums purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

A rural St. Cloud farmer complained of rural power to irrigators being shut off during peak usage.

Arnold said the State of Minnesota has little authority over rural electricity.

“If you don’t move with the bar, you’ll fall off it,” said Waibel, referring to the rapidly changing U.S. energy system.

Craig said many political talking points are meant to divide us.

“There’s a lot more we agree on than we disagree on,” said Craig. “Biofuels can lead the way in addressing this.”

The University of Minnesota Farm Family of the Year program begins at 1:15 p.m. Thursday at Farmfest.

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

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