Lawmakers and ag experts meet in Crookston to discuss farming issues
CROOKSTON, MN (WDAZ-TV) – According to the latest census by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average age of American farmers is climbing.
Without new blood, the existence of many small communities is at risk.
Lawmakers and ag experts brought the issue, and many others, to the forefront on Wednesday in Crookston.
Rep. Deb Kiel, Crookston: “We have watched the age of farmers get older and older. The average age is now 58.”
Four Minnesota Republican House of Representative members met to discuss agriculture issues ranging from the aging demographic of farmers to what has been done been about the avian bird flu problem, as Minnesota is the number one producers of turkey in the country.
Kiel: “Not only did we put dollars into trying to figure out what is happening with avian flu and how to control it. But also put money into research area because that needs to be updated.”
Representative Deb Kiel who serves as the Vice-Chair of Agriculture finance points out how even though the percentage of the budget spent on Ag is less than one percent it’s still important that money is goes to right places.
Kiel: “Has a large effect on Minnesota, especially, I would say in this district.”
One of those people greatly affected by the flow of funds is Albert Sims, the director of operations of the Northwest Outreach and Research Center.
Albert Sims, Northwest Research and Outreach Center: “Our birth was in 1895 and it was designed to do research on how to make the soggy prairies on northwest Minnesota productive.”
But now with crop prices down, research entities are feeling the funds dry up.
Sims: “We sold wheat at one time for $9 a bushel, now we’d be probably around $4. Right now there are no extra dollars.”
Sims get about half of his budget from state dollars, a quarter from grants and gifts and a quarter from farm commodities. With a short legislative session scheduled for March, Kiel says it’s unlikely there will be much noise made on agricultural front.
Sims: “The concerns I have is maintaining our capacity in not only equipment and facilities but also personal.”
For now, Sims will see if he can grow his green elsewhere.
Kiel says one agriculture issue that should be addressed in the March session is farm safety.