Crop insurance, small farm aid and food programs among Minnesotans’ top priorities in farm bill

NORTHFIELD, Minn. – Seed growers, emerging farmers and food shelves are all at risk from the next farm bill.

Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, called the farm bill “the only bill that supports rural America.”

Minnesotans’ demands for inclusion in the next farm bill were heard on July 25 at a farm bill hearing held at Far-Gaze ​​Farm in Northfield. Members of

General Farm Commodities and Risk Management subcommittee

have been holding rallies across the country, and Monday’s stop included Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and US Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn.

Bustos said last month’s session in Arizona was about water, and how the state needs to free up land because there isn’t enough of it.

“Here, we learned about the challenges of being a young farmer, and we learned that crop insurance works and doesn’t mess around,” Bustos said after the Minnesota session.

Only crop insurance

Dan Glessing, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, echoed the comments of several farmers on July 25 about the need to include crop insurance protection in the 2023 version of the farm bill.

“It’s important right now, it’s the cost of everything we’re doing on our farms,” ​​says Glessing of crop insurance.

Dan Glessing, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, speaks at a farm finance hearing held in Northfield by the House Agriculture Committee on July 25, 2022.

Noah Fish / Agweek

And he said it is important to many members of the MFB that crop insurance should continue independently of the new agriculture bill and not be related to the storage of products.

“Many of our members say that these conservation programs are good, but many of them are new, and we are trying to find out what works in communities,” said Glessing.

Glessing said a recurring theme in the farm bill debate is keeping what’s going well in the current plan.

“This Farm Bill that we have right now is good, but let’s make some changes here and there,” he said. “But let’s maintain that integrity, because it has worked well for our farmers and our Farm Bureau members.”

Helping small and emerging farmers

One of those who spoke on Monday was Kelsey Zaavedra, who owns a five-acre farm in Chisago district where he grows vegetables and raises domestic chickens. As a budding farmer, he said he came to the farm bill forum to discuss the challenges new farmers face in finding land.

“Many young farmers are leaving agriculture because we cannot get land, so I am here today to discuss what I hope to see in the Bill in terms of getting land and supporting developing farmers, young farmers, BIPOC farmers and having clear policies,” said Zaavedra.

He said Farm Service Agency programs don’t cater to small farms as much as they do to larger projects.

“You can’t even fill out the FSA loan form, because the forms are made for farms like this, not farms like mine,” said Zaavedra, at Far-Gaze ​​Farm, which is supported by six and a half families and a dozen additional workers. “So it is difficult unless you have a representative in the FSA office to represent you, and interpret for you.”

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, CEO of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance, used his time to speak with the two women to thank the many farmers who supported his interest in rural development.

But he said at the federal level, support has not been forthcoming.

“We really need to reform the entire Farm Service Agency, that’s how you get farmers,” Haslett-Marroquin said. “Because we know how to do it, and the way we are – we’ve got help from the federal government.”

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin_Moment.jpg

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin speaks during a farm bill hearing held in Northfield, Minnesota, by the House agriculture committee on July 25, 2022.

Noah Fish / Agweek

He said that the reform, the small group does not compete with the fields of high-value crops, and supports programs that benefit large projects.

“We want corn farmers, and we want soybean farmers – we want all the agriculture that you see here, but it doesn’t affect us, as foreigners and small farmers,” he said.

Haslett-Marroquin said it took her 10 years to save enough money to buy a farm in Jordan, Minnesota.

“I was literally, physically, removed from the country by the prejudice of the neighbors, who didn’t like that I owned land next to them,” said Haslett-Marroquin, who now farms full-time in Northfield. “We’re here right now and we’re ready to help these communities get better, and we’re out of luck because we have to pay for it ourselves.”

He said the FSA is the “big key” to solving many of the problems plaguing new, emerging practices and the opportunities brought to American agriculture by immigrant and young farmers.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program are key components of the farm bill. It is expected that

76% of the 2018 Farm Bill

they go to federal food programs like SNAP and TEFAP.

Anika Rychner, executive director at the Community Action Center in Northfield and Faribault, said both programs are “very important” to food shelves in Minnesota.

“Specifically here in the Southeast, we’re seeing a huge shortage of TEFAP-type foods, which food shelves like ours depend on,” Rychner said.

He said that on the shelves of the Community Action Center, there is a 50% shortage of TEFAP products, which “significantly affects” its ability to serve the community. And people using their food shelves have increased about 50% since January, Rychner said.

“We need to increase the amount of federal food that goes to communities in our states, more than ever before,” Rychner said. “We’re dealing with a huge crisis right now, with other resources related to this epidemic, and it’s affecting our families – now more than ever, we need help.”