Farmfest brings together talk of the weather and ag policyby Cara Hetland, Minnesota Public Radio
A day can make a world of difference in the life of a farmer. Monday stifling heat stressed crops and curled corn leaves but Tuesday rain gave a reprieve. Some farmers got more rain than others. At Farmfest in Redwood Falls, a couple hundred farmers took a day off Tuesday to listen to politicians and check out the latest equipment. What weighs heaviest on farmers minds is the future and how U.S. Policy will affect everything from prices to a market for their crops.
Redwood Falls, Minn. — The mood was lighter than if it had been another hundred-degree day. It didn't matter really how much rain fell - just that it did.
Vern Arnold is a retired farmer from Halloway. His three sons took over the family operation five years ago. They got .44, less than a half-inch of rain. He calls it a fresher-upper. Arnold says the crops look pretty good around his place.
"The areas that had good subsoil moisture has pretty good potential. If we get some more rain soon. A good soaker..." Arnold trailed off hopefully.
Arnold says fuel prices and the rising cost of fertilizer are a bigger concern for him than rain. He says they have combines that can burn $70 worth of fuel an hour.
Kent Kanten farms near Milan and says fuel prices have tripled in the last five years.
"The fuel truck used to come to the yard and fill up the tank and it didn't use to be a big bill. Now it's atrocious," Kanten says. "I just hate to see that fuel truck pull in the yard. The last load I bought was $2.66 for farm diesel that's without the tax. I've heard it's $2.80-something right now. We used to buy it for a dollar or less. That line in the budget has just gone all to pieces."
It's that farm budget that makes Kanten drift toward the next farm bill. He wants federal farm policy to reflect increasing costs. But he doesn't think the farm bill will change at all when it's up for renewal.
The last farm bill was written in 2002. It's up for renewal next year. Many members of Congress support extending the current farm policy.
Paul Sobocinski says it's up to farmers to to push lawmakers to change legislation. Sobocinski says the inch and a half of rain he got at his farm near Wabaso is a good example why farm policy needs to change.
"Very good rain. Unfortunately when it rains the price goes down. We need a farm policy a little bit more than that. Good things are happening (and) we're producing good food out here in rural America. That it's just not dependent on weather issues about whether farmers get a decent price," he says.
Sobocinski says there need to be programs to help the next generation of farmers get started.
Alfred Jessen, a retired farmer from Tracy, has an idea. He wants Congress to do away with the farm bill. He doesn't like the reputation some farmers have in getting millions in aid from Uncle Sam. Instead, he'd like to see every farmer get 12 coupons. Each coupon would allow a farmer to sell only a certain amount of grain at a time at a fixed price. Farmers can dry and store their own grain and sell a little every month. He says the elevators that purchase the grain would get the federal subsidy. "The farmers would never get one cent from the government. That way we would get all of our city cousins off our back that think all we have to do is go down to the mailbox and pick up our check," Jessen explains. "We would go to the elevator and they would exchange and the elevator would be reimbursed the difference in the market price to the support price. But they could only sell 1,000 bushels a month. Then we would eliminate that big pile of corn that we have on every street in every town that has an elevator and we would eliminate all the spoilage that those pile of grains have."
By limiting how much grain a farmer can sell Jessen says it would put every producer at the same level. Jessen says it would give young people a chance to get into agriculture. His idea would also make it easier at the bank because there would be a guaranteed price. Jessen says he's only talked about his idea with his neighbors and they all seem to like it.
Jessen and other farmers are conscious of the image tax payers have of farmers and are more concerned about that than when the next rain shower will fall.