Farmers Union members gather for spring meeting
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 04/05/2012 1:59 PM
KASSON, Minn. --- The proposed constitutional amendment requiring a photo id to vote drew the ire of Farmers Union members gathered for their spring meeting in Kasson last week.
About 20 people met at Daniel's Restaurant in Kasson on March 21 to learn what's going on at the state Capitol and in Washington, D.C.
Members questioned the need for photo id, since they are already registered and the election judges know them by name. They wondered about voting access for people who live in nursing homes and no longer drive, but continue to vote. Won't the photo technology be out of date before
it's even put into effect?
"Our members are going to be vocal about voter id," said Minnesota Farmers Union president Doug Peterson. "It insults the integrity of the townships they live in."
The voter id law, as written, will cost townships money, he said. There is no provision requiring the state to foot the bill for extra election judges or extra equipment required.
It's typical of people who don't know how local people live or how they vote, Peterson said. The past two recounts have not found fraud, so that argument rings hollow. There have been news reports of felons voting, but there's nothing to keep a felon from voting in the constitutional
amendment language. Felons who have served their time are allowed to have drivers' licenses.
It's a solution in search of a problem, said Bruce Miller, MFU membership and outreach director.
What about people who have lost their wallet? Peterson said Secretary of State Mark Ritchie told him that at any given time, 20,000 people in Minnesota have lost their wallet. What about people who vote by mail? There are 400 communities in the state that vote by mail. How does the amendment address this?
Photo id will likely succeed in keeping some people from casting a ballot. Peterson offered this tale: He's in the combine and his wife comes to pick him up to vote. It's 7:50 p.m. and they have just enough time to get to the polls before they close at 8. But his id is in the car at home. That's
a 20-minute trip. Think the polls will stay open for him?
Legislation requiring a photo id to cast a ballot passed the Minnesota House on March 21 and was up for discussion in the Senate on Friday.
Other issues discussed at the MFU spring meeting in Kasson:
• Federal farm legislation. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is targeting Medicaid, nutrition programs, conservation, direct payments and crop insurance for cuts. Congressman Collin Peterson, the lead
Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, told MFU's Peterson that Ryan's action will delay farm bill action and the old farm bill will likely remain in effect. Cuts are still likely. A farm bill is supposed to last five years, Peterson said, but there's a history of kicking the bill down the road in election years.
Farm bill politicking adds to the unease in rural America, Peterson said.
"There's a lot of nervousness in farm country," he said. Farmers are nervous not only about what will be in the next farm bill, but also the weather and commodity prices.
• Property taxes. The homestead credit is not coming back because state lawmakers can't balance the state's budget if they do, Peterson said. His property taxes went up 17 percent on his Lac Qui Parle property. Small businesses were hit hard when the homestead credit was eliminated in 2011.
Farmers also saw increases in their property taxes, a result of rising land values and the tax shift resulting from the change to a market value exclusion.
• Rural Finance Authority. MFU supports bonding for the Rural Finance Authority as part of the bonding bill. The money is loaned to farmers who pay it back with interest. At an earlier meeting in St. Peter, Peterson said a young farmer approached him and said he was farming because of an
• Wind easements. MFU supports a seven-year window on wind rights. This means the lease will terminate after seven years if there is no project under development. The law is due to sunset this year. A bill that would extend the seven-year law for five years is likely to pass, according to Farmers Union.
• Local control. Peterson likened a moratorium to taking time to think before buying that piece of furniture you're have to look at for years. MFU is opposed to legislation that would require a two-thirds vote to enact an interim ordinance and shorten the time local governments have to enact an interim ordinance.