Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Franken visits Dawson farm

By Carol Stender
cstender@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 11/21/2012 1:07 PM

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DAWSON, Minn. — Roger and Karen Strom's grandson, Braxton, was excited to give U.S. Sen. Al Franken a tractor ride around his grandparent's farmyard Friday.

Franken visited the Strom's farm where he spoke to 60 farmers and businesspeople about the farm bill and other legislation.

H earliere visited the kosher Noah's Ark Processing Plant.

The senator was interested to know what people wanted in a farm bill.

A few answered with calls for a cap on crop insurance, but most were concerned about Congress' inability to pass a farm bill before the fall recess.

"This year we have had a good year and a good crop and good prices so farmers maybe aren't as focused on the farm bill as they should be," said Tim Dahlgren. "But at the first of the year, it will be their banker that gets us more excited...and it will be a really big thing for us."

Roger Strom echoed the sentiment later when he talked about his own farm. His son-in-law is eligible for the young farmer program, but it's uncertain what will happen to the program, which offers low-interest loans to those starting out.

"This isn't about me," Strom said. "This is about the next generation that wants to farm."

Franken supports the young farmer program. The average age of farmers is 50, he said. It's not just about helping the next generation of farmers, it's also a national security issue.

He thinks Congress will work together on USDA programs and he doesn't think sequestration will happen. But a lot will depend on the election's results.

He is frustrated that Congress didn't pass farm legislation. While the Senate passed its farm bill, the House wasn't able to bring it for a vote, he said.

"It seems like something has be in place by Jan. 1," he said. "It should've been in place by Sept. 30, but we didn't get it done."

Farmers are often attacked during discussions of the farm bill when the majority of program funding goes to social programs, said one farmer.

"The American people are woefully ignorant when it comes to the farm bill," he said. "They talk about how it subsidizes farming, but they don't look at the whole program."

Franken wants a five-year farm bill that is a safety net for farmers. He doesn't support direct payments. While the Senate bill didn't have provisions for direct payments, the House version did.