Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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REDWOOD FALLS, Minn.—They do not often bring in television lights for a Farmfest forum. But that is not the only unusual thing about a forum on the last day of the southwest Minnesota agriculture event: Eleven U.S. representatives featured at the forum gave brief opening remarks and then shut up (well, except for some chatting among themselves). Some testifiers appeared surprised that the congressmen actually were listening to them. To add to the unusual atmosphere, it was 61 degrees, unheard-of cold for Farmfest.
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — Many, if not most, farmers say they like what they have seen so far in how President Donald Trump deals with agriculture. Most specifically, they like him naming Sonny Perdue agriculture secretary, although some are concerned he was the last Cabinet nomination and Perdue's department still lacks many top officials. But there is a question in many minds, when it comes to Trump and Perdue. Farmer Lester Braulick of New Ulm, Minn., put it simply during the recent Farmfest: "Is he (Trump) going to let him do his job?"
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn.—Crop insurance. Organic agriculture. Young farmers. Conservation. Sugar help. Vaccine. Feeding the poor. International trade. The list started there and went on and on as 11 U.S. representatives sat through 2½ hours of ideas from Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa farmers and agribusiness people about how they should write new federal farm legislation. The only common theme the 11 heard was that they want the federal government to help agriculture.
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — Two members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee have especially strong feelings about the need to aid farmers and ranchers during disasters because their states are in an extreme drought. U.S. Reps. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, both Republicans, sat with nine colleagues as farmers and agri-business leaders from the region testified Thursday, Aug. 3, about what should be in new federal farm legislation. Many mentioned disasters, such as major crop and livestock losses.
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn.—Mike Orbeck may be lucky: He pretty much knows what his health insurance will be next year. Many of his fellow farmers do not know what to expect as federal plans to overturn health care laws failed and the state says individual health insurance policy rates should remain about the same next year, if Minnesota gets federal approval for a new state program. Recent health insurance news, sometimes conflicting and always confusing, has those who rely on individual policies worried. Farmers are a major user of individual policies.
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — Bob Worth barely kept his composure as he revealed two close friends, both fellow farmers, recently committed suicide. They killed themselves over agriculture stresses, he said, speaking as part of a panel discussion about challenges of farming. "Don't ever do that to your family," he urged farmers in the Tuesday, Aug. 1, audience at Farmfest, an annual agricultural event in southwestern Minnesota.
ST. PAUL—"A bridge in America just shouldn't fall down." The often-quoted comment by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was what Minnesotans thought 10 years ago when the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis did just that. But state leaders did not stop with talk, they began taking action to prevent more bridge disasters the day after the Aug. 1, 2007, collapse. They started inspecting every bridge in the state, then fixing and replacing those most in need.
ST. PAUL — Maybe something will come of all the talk this time. We are hearing more about U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar visiting Iowa, which always brings up talk of presidential ambitions. But it is more than just Iowa trips. The Minnesota Democrat is being mentioned more and more by national media, many Americans see her frequent national television appearances and about 900 people like an "Amy Klobuchar for President in 2020" Facebook page. The latest is that she plans to attend a Hollywood fundraiser this weekend.
WASHINGTON — Minnesota's two U.S. senators voted with all other Democrats against the Senate debating a federal health care law rewrite Tuesday, July 25, pleading to allow the two parties to work together, and a former Republican senator agreed with them. "We can still stop this," Sen. Amy Klobuchar declared shortly after the vote. "We can still put aside partisanship and instead work together on bipartisan solutions, like lowering the cost of prescription drugs and strengthening the exchanges."
ST. PAUL—Minnesota House members will get pay raises after all. House Speaker Kurt Daudt announced Friday night, July 21, that he will instruct House staffers to begin paying representatives $45,000 a year, matching what senators have been receiving. The decision came after two lawmakers sued him for not allowing the raises, which were ordered by an independent commission voters established last year to set legislative pay.