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Minnesota Farm Bureau sets top issues for 2010

Hot-button issues in 2010 for Minnesota farmers and ranchers include food safety, renewable fuels, greenhouse gas reductions, water quality and animal care.

Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation delegates at their 91st annual meeting last weekend in Brooklyn Park passed those issues along to the group's board of directors for adoption.

"Farmers and ranchers in Minnesota and across the nation are facing shrinking or in some cases negative economic margins," Kevin Paap, MFBF president, said in a statement. "Commodity prices are lower than a year ago while at the same time input costs for growing those commodities have increased."

Paap, a Blue Earth County fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer, was re-elected to a third two-year term as president of the largest general farm organization in the state with more than 30,000 family members.

"Sustainability is directly tied to profitability," said Paap. "In order for agriculture to remain a vital part of our state and nation's economy, Farm Bureau will advocate for policies that positively impact farm and ranch profitability."

Among them, as presented by the Minnesota Farm Bureau:

- Food Safety -- Farmers and ranchers are committed to producing a safe and abundant food supply for all consumers. Farm Bureau will work to maintain and enhance consumer confidence in our food safety system.

- Greenhouse Gas Reductions -- Farm Bureau voting delegates clearly indicated that any greenhouse gas reduction policies must, at a minimum, meet the following standards: recognize regional differences on how energy is produced; be affordable for all Americans; be realistic and achievable; and must have a positive outcome for agriculture.

- Water Quality -- Farmers and ranchers remain committed to protecting our water quality. Farm Bureau delegates re-emphasized the need for peer-reviewed scientific data when addressing impaired waters and support for early involvement of agricultural stakeholders in the development and implementation of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).

- Renewable Transportation Fuels -- Minnesota's renewable transportation fuels industry is not only a key value-added industry, but also, a significant rural economic development driver. Farm Bureau remains a strong supporter of increased use of renewable transportation fuels such ethanol and biodiesel. It is essential that our state remains devoted to research and development that supports advancement of this industry.

- Animal Care -- Livestock producers protect their animals from disease, predators and severe weather as part of their commitment to proper animal care. Farm Bureau opposes legislation or regulation that restricts or prohibits scientifically established livestock and poultry husbandry practices.

"Farmers and ranchers throughout Minnesota and the United States are facing difficult economic times. Recognizing this, the voting delegates expressed their dedication to working to ensure that adequate credit is available for the purchase of feed and other inputs.," according to the policy document.

Delegates also listed transportation as a priority, as moving farm and ranch inputs to the farm and commodities to market in a timely and safe manner remain key policy goals for MFBF.

Farm Bureau says it will, in the upcoming year, "work to obtain funding to upgrade rural roads and bridges. Additionally, as we look to the future of Minnesota's rail system, the movement of freight must remain a high priority. Farm Bureau supports the expansion and improvements to existing freight lines."

In his speech to Farm Bureau annual meeting attendees, Paap urged them to connect with their elected officials at the local, state and national levels. And he reiterated the importance of communicating with consumers about what the group is and how farmers raise the food, feed, fiber and fuel they use.

"We must strengthen the link between farm families and urban residents to let them know where their food comes from," said Paap. "Agriculture must do more to reach out and engage with them."

Said Paap: "We will continue to be a leader in educating and engaging elected officials, other organizations and most importantly our consumers on the vital role that farmers and ranchers play in Minnesota's economic viability and in protecting and preserving Minnesota's natural resources."

Re-elected to a three-year term to the MFBF Board of Directors was John Gilbertson of Puposky, representing District VI.

Among those winning awards at the annual meeting was the Cass County Farm Bureau, with a tie with Waseca County for Best New Program. Cass County's entry was it's Harvest Supper.