ST. CLOUD, Minn. – The 21st annual Minnesota Organic Conference included a legislative listening session where organic farmers expressed their concerns about the state’s agriculture industry to state officials. The session was an opportunity for producers to address issues involving profitability and environmental worries in the state.
Thom Petersen, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, facilitated the session that featured a panel including Sen. Aric Putnam, D-St. Cloud, Rep. Samantha Vang, D-Brooklyn Center, and Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck. The panel listened to the farmers’ concerns, which ranged from financial incentives for environmentally friendly practices to the impact of the shrinking dairy herd in the state.
One of the key concerns brought up by Ben Hinueber of Albert Lea Seed was the need for more financial incentives for practices that improve soil and water quality. Petersen mentioned the efforts to provide a property tax credit for those enrolled in the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program and the program’s $5,000 cost share. The issue of nitrate concerns in the southeastern part of the state was also discussed, as well as the availability of health care for entrepreneurs in farming.
Retired farmer John Dugan expressed concerns about the decline in dairy farms and the implications for the agriculture industry. Petersen discussed the efforts to provide financial assistance to Minnesota dairy cow operations through the Dairy Assistance, Investment, Relief Initiative.
Other topics brought up included concerns about the state’s buffer law, the impact to hemp growers after the legalization of recreational marijuana, and the desire to grow the elderberry industry in Minnesota.
The conversation emphasized the need for legislative support and incentives to address the challenges faced by organic and conventional farmers in Minnesota. It also highlighted the importance of environmental sustainability and the viability of the agriculture industry in the state.