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Young farmers travel to Washington

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 10/08/2013 3:55 PM

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NICOLLET, Minn. — As Congress putts along with the farm bill, Nicollet young farmers Brent and Bryce Krohn continue to make plans for their farm operation.

This is the second year the brothers have farmed on their own. They raise row crops and their farm name is B&B Krohn Farms.

Brent and Bryce spent Sept. 7 through Sept. 11 in Washington, D.C., with the Minnesota Farmers Union Beginning Farmer Institute.

The first two days were spent in meetings with other members of the Beginning Farmers Institute. The second two days were spent meeting with lawmakers.

They visited with Reps. Tim Walz, Collin Peterson and Erik Paulsen and Sen. Al Franken. All were optimistic a farm bill would pass, Bryce said, but they admitted it would be very difficult to do.

Why do young farmers need a farm bill?

For stability, said Brent, 28. They are making 40-year decisions on land purchases and five-year to 10-year decisions on equipment purchases based on a one-year farm bill.

They are signing land lease agreements for three to five years out without knowing what farm policy is going to be beyond Sept. 30.

Crop insurance is a big deal, Brent said. It's a revenue assurance program. They aren't guaranteed to make a profit with crop insurance, but they are guaranteed to receive something for the investment they've already put into their fields in hopes of getting a crop.

The farm bill has a huge impact on how farmers farm and how they structure their business, Brent said.

The brothers aren't as optimistic as the lawmakers who talked to them. They wonder if Congress will manage to pass a farm bill when both sides seem more interested in blaming the other.

"If we have a health care bill, a transportation bill, why not worry about people's food, too?" Brent asked.

The early September trip was the second time both brothers had been to Washington. Their first journey was their Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School senior class trip. This was the first time they lobbied members of Congress.

Groups of three or five visited each elected official and they talked about issues they'd learned about earlier in the visit.

Some of the topics they discussed included the milk program, beginning farmer legislation, crop insurance, renewable energy programs and the Renewable Fuels Standard.

It was the first time they heard much about the Renewable Fuels Standard. They deliver corn to ethanol plants and are familiar with the farmer side of ethanol, but it was the first time they learned about the political side.

The trip was definitely worth his time, said Bryce, 22. Not only did he learn quite a bit, but he also learned more about the political process and how it works.

He also expanded his definition of a farm in meetings with other members of the Beginning Farmer Institute. Members hail from across the nation. A woman from Denver markets eggs and another from the East Coast has a 15 by 15 Community Supported Agriculture. An organic farmer from northern Minnesota also came along.

Participants in this program learn financial, marketing, public speaking and planning skills.

Brent and Bryce were asked to join the Beginning Farmer Institute and said it was an opportunity they didn't want to pass up. Other members from Minnesota are Eric Hoese of Mayer and Carsten Thomas of Moorhead.

In addition to the trip to Washington, they will attend the Minnesota Farmers Union state convention in Minneapolis in November and the National Farmers Union Convention in Santa Fe, N.M., in March.

Bryce is an apprentice electrician with Otto Electric of Nicollet. Brent is a structural engineer for I&S Group, an engineering and architecture firm based in Mankato.