As we head into the heat of summer, there are many hot-topicissues related to agriculture and rural communities that are likely to be important factors for voters as they listen to debates and analyze candidate viewpoints for the upcoming U.S. congressional elections in Minnesota, as well as for electing other state and local candidates. These issues will also be a focal point of the candidate forums and the other feature forums scheduled each day at Farmfest on August 5, 6 and 7. The forums will be held in the forum tent on the Farmfest site, located 7 miles southeast of Redwood Falls, MN on State Highway 67. The forum schedule for 2008 has a heavy emphasis on national and state agriculture policy issues and toward strengthening the rural economy in Minnesota. It will also feature a special forum on the current food vs. fuel debate.

Farmfest Candidate Forums

  • The U.S. Senate candidate’s forum on agriculture and rural issues is the feature forum on Tuesday, August 5, at 10:30 a.m. Incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and challengers Al Franken (D), Dean Barkley (I) and Steve Williams (I) will participate in the forum. A panel of agriculture reporters for radio and newspaper will pose questions to the candidates on a variety of issues affecting agriculture and rural communities.
  • The congressional candidate’s forum on agriculture and rural issues is the afternoon forum on Tuesday, August 5 at 1:30 p.m. Incumbent Rep. Collin Peterson (D) from the seventh district and Tim Walz (D) from the first district will be joined by candidates Brian Davis (R) and Dick Day (R) from the first district, Steve Sarvi (D) from the second district, Elwyn Tinklenberg (D) from the sixth district and Glen Menze (R) from the seventh district. Questions on a wide range of agriculture policy and rural issues will be asked by a panel of agriculture leaders from various agriculture organizations and commodity groups.

Following are the broad-issue topics that the candidate’s forums will focus on:

  • The new farm bill: Good ideas, implementation and needed revisions.
  • Renewable energy development and policies (RFS, import tariffs, etc.)
  • How to best address rapidly rising fuel and food costs that are affecting everybody
  • WTO Negotiations, NAFTA, CAFTA, and other trade agreements
  • Addressing issues facing the U.S. livestock industry. (Low profits, COOL, etc.)
  • The increasing federal budget deficit vs. the need for more spending on federal programs
  • Rural development issues: How to strengthen rural communities
  • Future development of biotechnology in the agriculture industry
  • The impact of federal environmental regulations on production agriculture
  • Revisions needed in current rural and agriculture policy

Another special feature on the first day of Farmfest, Tuesday, August 5, will be a Keynote address by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, which is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Minnesota Board of Animal Health will be hosting a special forum on Tuesday, August 5, at 9:00 a.m., titled: Understanding Minnesota’s T.B. Regulations and Testing Requirements.

Other Feature Forums at Farmfest

  • "Beyond The New Farm Bill … What are the Next Big Policy Issues Facing Agriculture?” on Wednesday, August 6, at 10:30 a.m. Trade policies, the Clean Water Act, renewable energy and rural development will be among the policy issues addressed during this forum. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will join Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau president, and Tom Buis, National Farmer’s Union president, to discuss current and future ag policy issues. This is a very unique experience to hear the presidents of the two major farm organizations in the U.S. on the same forum panel, together with Sen. Klobuchar, who sits on the U.S. Senate Ag Committee.
  • Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture Gene Hugoson will keynote a special Farmfest forum on Wednesday, August 6, at 1:15 p.m., titled: Food and Fuel … Where is the Balance for Renewable Energy?The panel for this forum will include five experts of varying backgrounds on this topic, including: Brian Buhr, new department head at the U of M applied economics department; Jim Sartwelle, livestock economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation; Randy Spronk, National Pork Producers Association board member; Steve Kramer, Minnesota Corn Growers Association secretary; and Newell Searle, vice president of Second Harvest Heartland. This topic has generated national attention by the media, members of Congress and the general public.
  • The feature forum on Thursday, August 7, at 10:30 a.m., is titled Creating a New Vision for Rural Minnesota’s Economic Future.The keynote speaker at this forum will be Mark Drabenstott, director of the RUPRI Policy Center at the University of Missouri and nationally known expert on rural policy and development. The response panel will include: Marc Knisely, CEO of United Farm Credit Services; John Monson, vice president of rural development for AgStar Financial Services; and Bob Byrnes, mayor of Marshall and U of M Regional Extension director.
  • Over 65 farm families from counties throughout Minnesota will be recognized at the Farm Family of the Year recognition program, which will be held on Thursday, August 7, at 1:30 p.m., in the forum tent. The program will feature several special guests from the University of Minnesota and the agriculture industry, as well as music by the Great Pretenders. This recognition event is jointly sponsored by FARMFEST and the University of Minnesota. (More details at the University of Minnesota Extension site.

Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.