State ag leaders want to hear about impact of severe weather
WILLMAR -- Minnesota's agricultural legislative leaders want to hear from constituents about the impact of the summer's extreme weather on the agricultural economy and rural areas.
The expectation is to gather the information in preparation for the potential fall special session of the Minnesota Legislature, according to Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar.
The state's attention has been toward the human toll after the Aug. 1 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge and the recent flooding in southeastern Minnesota. Rightfully so, Juhnke says, but meanwhile agriculture has been quietly suffering.
"We are hearing a lot about roads and bridges. That's important, but our farm operations are critical too," he said Friday.
The goal is to gather information, with constituents urged to contact their local legislators, Juhnke, Senate Ag Committee Chair Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, or Gene Hugoson, the state's agriculture commissioner.
After Labor Day, there will be a series of listening meetings around the state. The leaders are calling on not just farmers, but also on agricultural professionals, the Farm Service Agency, the University of Minnesota Extension Service, county feedlot officers, dairy inspectors and the like to contribute to the effort. Farmers Union and Farm Bureau are surveying their membership, Juhnke added.
"If there is a special session, we want to be part of the discussion," he said. There are many relief options for legislators to pick from including property tax relief or sales tax relief. Both of those items were in bills that were vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty this spring.
Because any legislative action will be retroactive, Juhnke urges farmers to save receipts if they are fixing fences or buildings due to storm damage.
The legislator also wants to know how farmers are handling the drought and what portion of their lost crop yields will be covered by crop insurance. Another key is how livestock producers are going to handle feed needs over the winter or if hay and forage stocks are sufficient.
"We want to hear from folks, what the struggles are," he said, adding that people have a few weeks to gather their thoughts before the listening sessions happen.