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Dairy producers meet with legislators on Dairy Day 2013

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 02/13/2013 7:56 AM

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ST. PAUL — Goodhue dairy farmers Dave and Ann Buck found plenty to talk about when they met with Sen. Foung Hawj during Dairy Day at the Capitol.

Hawj hails from St. Paul's East side where the major issues are jobs, economic development and housing. He's on the Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and is vice chair of the Environment, Economic Development and Agricultural Finance Committee. He requested the agriculture committees because many of his constituents are farmers. Some people have left his district looking for farming opportunities elsewhere in the nation. His sister and brother-in-law farm in Missouri.

"Farming's not easy," Hawj said, telling the Bucks he was there to listen and see if he could make Minnesota better as a legislator.

They discussed taxes, access to land and the need for a dairy teaching, education and research facility.

"We need to promote jobs that create wealth," Dave Buck said.

Hawj asked about raw milk, an issue he hears about from his constituents, and the Bucks gave him a handout from the Food and Drug Administration. Minnesota Milk supports the current law, which allows on-farm sales of raw milk.

The Bucks talked about their family and their farm and invited Hawj to come for a visit. They left him a brochure on their dairy.

Hawj described his diverse legislative district and told them he would be the keynote speaker at the 8th annual Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference on Feb. 2.

In a meeting with Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, health care was the main topic of discussion. 40 Square is a health care cooperative supported by Minnesota Milk. The cooperative has run into several regulatory hurdles and members of Minnesota Milk asked Ingebrigtsen to look into the issue on their behalf.

Another group met with Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston. Davids went through Minnesota Milk's Dairy Initiatives with his pen, asking questions as he marked them up.

He took aim at what he calls the "Unaffordable Care Act,'' which he says will cause 26 million Americans to lose their health care insurance. The long-term care provisions in the bill were already dropped, he said. He's working on a bill to set up health care exchanges in Minnesota, but said will pull off the bill unless some changes are made.

Davids lamented the loss of balance in Minnesota's government, the first time since 1988 that the House and Senate majorities and the governor have been from the same party.

"I call it taxes gone wild, we've got no way to stop them," he said.

The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Democrats believe government should decide where a person's money goes, Davids said. Republicans, on the other hand, believe people should have the right to decide where their money is spent.

He disagrees with the way the House committees were set up; saying agriculture should have its own separate finance committee.

With a few more flourishes of his pen, he gave the group a passing grade and they were off.

In total, more than 50 dairy farmers visited with lawmakers during Dairy Day at the Capitol on Jan. 30.