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MFB members talk to lawmakers in Washington

By Carol Stender
cstender@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 04/04/2013 7:31 PM

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WASHINGTON — Joan Lee's pictures caught the attention of Minnesota's congressional delegation as Farm Bureau members from across the state met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

The images showed wolves near her McIntosh farm.

"Even with the state's wolf hunt a year ago, a pack of five wolves was seen a half mile north of the farm," she said. "And this past winter, seven were seen on a trail camera."

She heard wolves recently in the pasture when she walked from her barn, Lee said. She's concerned about the animals killing her livestock.

"We want to be able to keep that population under control and, at the same time, we want to be compensated for the loss of livestock if any are taken down by wolves," she said.

Lee was joined by MFB members from Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Dakota, Dodge, Kandiyohi, Mahnomen, Martin, Nobles, Polk, Pope, Stearns and Waseca counties. The group met with Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Reps. Collin Peterson, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan.

The farm bill was often mentioned in discussions with lawmakers and staff, Lee said. Some lawmakers were positive it could be passed, and others weren't as sure it could happen.

"We told them that we need a farm bill, and the sooner the better," Lee said. "We would like a five-year plan so we can plan for our farms. What we are looking for is a safety net for the bad years. The good years -- we can handle them, but the bad years can be harmful to our operations."

Eric Kuehl, of St. Cloud, got a sense of the communication breakdown in Washington during a conversation with Rep. Peterson.

"He said the sequestration issue had sucked the life out of Capitol Hill," Kuehl said. "Until that can be resolved, the possibility of a farm bill is unlikely."

MFB members talked about immigration reform so the farm labor situation would stabilize.

"If we were to remove all the immigrant labor in Minnesota, half of the cows would not get milked tonight," Kuehl said.

Other topics mentioned included biotechnology, unnecessary regulations, animal care, the Renewable Fuels Standard, food safety regulations and the Water Resources Development Act.

"Research shows that the most effective way to communicate with your members of Congress is in Washington, D.C.," said MFBF President Kevin Paap. "It is vital to agriculture for our senators and members of Congress to put a face to the families involved in Minnesota agriculture."

The trip was a first for Kuehl and the response from the congressional delegation was positive, he said.

"The ideas we brought weren't radical," he aid. "They are common sense and good for the state of Minnesota. When you look at the state of the economy in the nation, the bright star has been agriculture. ... We do have some struggles, but ag has been the most positive compared to other sectors."

He's optimistic about the meetings.

"You need some middle ground," he said. "We want to get something that is workable."

The group also met with officials at the ag department and officials for the Embassy of Canada.