The following special orders were approved at the 80th annual Minnesota Farmers Union State Convention.
- Drought Relief and Climate Resilience
- Local and Regional Processing
- Competitive Markets
- Generational Farm Transition
- Affordable Healthcare
1. Drought Relief and Climate Resilience
Whereas nearly 90 percent of Minnesota faced severe drought conditions in 2021, stunting the growth of conventional and specialty crops, drying up water sources for livestock and deteriorating hay ground and pasture;
Whereas Minnesota’s drought was made more challenging by the fact that so much of the western United States was facing similar conditions;
Whereas the drought came on the heels of not just COVID-19, but also Minnesota’s wettest year on record in 2019;
Whereas these are just two examples of the extreme conditions family farmers will be forced to deal with as a result of climate change;
Whereas, in the face of these challenges, family farmers are coming up with ways to remain resilient and help combat climate change, including through the use of cover crops, managed grazing, nutrient management, on-farm renewable energy, and a host of other practices;
Whereas it is imperative that family farmers have a seat at the table in climate discussions as they have an important role to play in innovating in response to challenges that pose a real threat to their livelihood, our rural communities, and the economy of our entire state;
Now therefore be it resolved that MFU supports immediate action to provide farmers with relief and help them remain resilient to the next drought by:
- Funding near-term drought relief at the state level, including to provide ‘Rapid Response Grants’ to producers and expanding access to the Rural Finance Authority (RFA);
- Providing targeted tax relief and incentives to help farmers affected by the drought including by removing the sales tax on fencing equipment, expanding the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit (BFTC), and limiting the tax liability for family farmers who sold livestock;
- Allowing haying and grazing of acres held in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in all drought conditions.
And be it further resolved that MFU supports state and federal action to give farmers the information, tools and resources they need to continue pursuing on-farm climate action, including by:
- Helping family farmers earn a fair return on voluntary investments in practices that can sequester carbon and deliver other ecosystem benefits;
- Fully funding research at land-grant universities to research and scale alternative crops and practices that can improve farm finances and make farms more resilient;
- Making conservation equipment available to farmers to implement new practices;
- Funding and expanding the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) and other voluntary state and federal programs that incentivize on-the-ground practices that promote soil health and improve the climate;
- Expanding the use of biofuels and on-farm renewable energy.
2. Local and Regional Processing
Whereas family farmers depend on processors, distributors, and retailers – whether they are meat processors, creameries, mills, seed suppliers, grocers, restaurants – to both produce food, fuel, and fiber and bring those goods to market;
Whereas meat and poultry processing is essential for livestock farmers to bring food to market;
Whereas a severe shortage of small and mid-sized processors has put pressure on small producers, limiting their farm businesses;
Whereas this pressure has intensified with the shutdown of large packing plants due to COVID-19;Whereas consumers have a heightened interest in buying locally sourced meat and poultry direct, which can boost and diversify farm income if farmers have access to processing;
Whereas we depend on local and regional processing as a matter of food system resiliency and national security.
Now therefore be it resolved that the state and federal government invest in expanding small and mid-scale meat and poultry processing, including through:
- Continuing support for meat processing training programs at technical colleges;
- Fully funding state and federal meat inspection services;
- Encouraging the development of new technologies – like mobile slaughter – and labor-saving innovations that can make small and mid-sized processing plants more profitable;
- Supporting the development of cooperatives and other ways for farmers to organize themselves to create new or best use of existing plant capacity;
- Supporting generational transition of processing plants;
- Working with business development agencies and others to develop model business plans, financing options, and other resources for people seeking to start new processing businesses.
3. Competitive Markets
Whereas corporate consolidation in food and agriculture pushes down prices paid to farmers, increases input costs, stifles innovation born from competition, and otherwise limits individual family farmers’ voice in the marketplace;
Whereas the food and agriculture sector has become increasingly consolidated. Today, the four largest meat packers control 54 percent of our nation’s poultry processing, 65 percent of pork processing, and 85 percent of beef packing. Similarly four companies control 82 percent of soybean crushing and 84 percent of wet corn milling;
Whereas the farmer’s share of every food dollar has declined from 50 percent in 1952 to less than 16 percent today;
Whereas consolidation hurts consumers and workers too. Today four companies account for at least 75 percent of grocery sales;
Whereas America’s national security is threatened by unchecked corporate consolidation particularly by foreign owned companies.
Whereas now is the right time for action. President Joe Biden issued an executive order on ‘Promoting Competition,’ Sen. Amy Klobuchar Chairs the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee, and National Farmers Union launched the Fairness for Farmers campaign;
Now therefore be it resolved that MFU calls on the state and federal governments to take swift, meaningful steps to restore market competition by:
- Strengthening federal and state antitrust enforcement, including the Packers and Stockyards Act;
- Funding capacity at the Department of Justice and State Attorney General’s Office to bring cases against companies who use their power to abuse farmers, consumers and workers;
- Strengthening prohibitions against mergers;
- Improving price discovery and ensuring accurate market information;
- Supporting diverse, alternative opportunities for marketing products, including through farmer-owned cooperatives.
4. Generational Farm Transition
Whereas family farms are the basic source of new wealth in rural regions of our state and nation;
Whereas farmland is non-renewable and necessary for the next generation to share in this wealth;
Whereas it is the sincere hope of most family farmers to pass their land on to their children, a dedicated employee, or another young person who will support their family on the land;
Whereas the price of farmland in Minnesota has continued to increase, pricing out new farmers and others who lack capital;
And whereas corporate ownership of farmland across the country has increased competition and threatened the family farm;
Now therefore be it resolved that MFU calls on the state and federal government to support the next generation of farmers, including by:
- Expanding incentives to pass farmland onto the next generation—including Minnesota’s Beginning Farmer Tax Credit (BFTC);
- Expanding access to credit for beginning and emerging farmers;
- Targeting programs and tax incentives—including capital gains exemptions—that support farmland access and transition;
- Limiting corporate ownership of farmland, including by supporting Minnesota’s corporate farm law.
5. Affordable Health Care
Whereas no person should go bankrupt or risk losing their family farm or business because they cannot afford health care;
Whereas family farmers are small business owners who disproportionately purchase health insurance on the individual market and are hit hard by high premiums and lack choice between health plans in rural areas;
Whereas people in rural areas often have a harder time accessing comprehensive healthcare, which includes mental health, chemical health, maternal, reproductive health, and dental care;
Whereas, as rural hospitals, clinics, and other providers were struggling prior to the pandemic and have now come under new financial pressure;
Whereas many farmers and others in rural MN already have to travel long distances to access care;
Whereas Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) policy calls for the state and federal government to create a comprehensive single-payer health plan;
Whereas MFU policy supports the right for states to establish public health care options, like the OneCare buy-in option introduced by Governor Tim Walz;
Now therefore be it resolved that MFU supports the efforts of Gov. Walz to create a public buy-in option that will help control costs for farmers, businesses, rural residents, and people across the state; while continuing to advocate for single-payer; and
Be it further resolved that state and federal officials support rural care providers, increase Medicare reimbursement rates, expand telehealth and otherwise improve access to care in rural areas.