Farmers, rural residents express frustration at Rural Voices Discussions
For the second year in a row, Minnesota Farmers Union organized Rural Voices Discussions to hear what is on the minds of family farmers and rural residents.
In March and April 2018, MFU conducted seven Rural Issues Discussions around the state, holding them in Mankato, Oronoco, Willmar, Cloquet, Detroit Lakes, Crookston and Ada. Nearly 350 people attended to listen and speak up.
A special report has been presented to the Governor, the media and the Legislature outlining the major topics and highlighting MFU’s positions on those issues. A copy is available to anyone who requests it, and it is available here.
Attendees raised many major topics for consideration. They included the high cost of health insurance; disparities in rural ambulance service; the need for high-speed broadband internet throughout the state; concerns about agricultural regulations; the need for funding for road and bridge infrastructure; and concern about the farm economy, including low commodity prices, high input costs and tight credit margins.
Additionally, we heard about problems for elk farmers with proposed regulations; the problem with road infrastructure; the need to pass a Farm Bill that includes a strong nutrition title; and the need to support beginning farmers and farmers who grow local foods. The crisis for Minnesota’s dairy farmers was also highlighted for the listening panel in each of the seven sessions. We served milk produced in Minnesota at every discussion to show our support for dairy farmers.
How the Rural Voices Discussions work are that MFU recruits a listening panel at each of the gatherings who listened to the participants who spoke, and then reflected on what they heard. Our listening panels consisted of Dayton administration officials and National Farmers Union elected leadership. Staff from federal elected officials also attended each session and reflected on what they would bring back to those officials.
Each listening panel was led by MFU President Gary Wertish. We were fortunate to have excellent participants on the listening panel. They included Acting Minnesota Commissioner of Human Services Chuck Johnson; Minnesota Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture Matt Wohlman; Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Transportation Nancy Daubenberger; Assistant Commissioner for Human Services for Health Care Nathan Moracco; National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson; and NFU Vice President Patty Edelburg.
MFU Membership and Outreach Director Bruce Miller moderated each discussion, and additional staff were on hand at each session to record the testimony, work with the media and to livestream the events on Facebook. It was the first time we have livestreamed these events, and we got excellent outreach from that. Thank you to all who tuned in online, as well as everyone who attended.
For additional information about the Rural Voices Report, please contact Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.