Farmfest will feature an exciting lineup of Feature Forums and a Farm Family of the Year recognition event in 2007. The forums will be held August 7, 8, and 9, in the forum tent on the Farmfest site, which is located at the Gilfillan Estate, 7 miles southeast of Redwood Falls, MN. The forum schedule for 2007 has a heavy emphasis on national and state agriculture policy issues and toward strengthening the rural economy in Minnesota, and will feature special forums on the 2007 Farm Bill, global warming, and developing future land use policy. All of the forums will provide ample time for audience questions, and follow-up discussion by Panel members.

Here are some highlights on the Farmfest forums :

The New Farm Bill
The "The New Farm Bill … Shaping the Future of Rural America" is the feature forum on Tuesday, August 7, at 10:30 a.m. The forum panel will feature U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and the four members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation who currently serve on the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, and are currently providing leadership to the development of the next farm bill. Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson is the Chair of the U.S. House Ag Committee; which also includes First District Congressman Tim Walz. Sens. Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar serve on the Senate Ag Committee.

Global Warming
Will Steger, world-famous Artic explorer, will keynote a special afternoon Forum, "Global Warming … Agriculture’s Role in Finding Solutions," scheduled for Tuesday, August 7, at 1:30 p.m. Steger will draw on his vast travel experiences to give an overview on the potential impacts of global warming, which will be followed by comments from a response panel on agricultural solutions to address the impacts of global warming. The response panel will include Gene Sandager, a Rock County, MN farm operator, who serves on the National Corn Growers Association board; Kristin Duncanson, farm operator from Mapleton, MN, and a former National Director for the American Soybean Association; Mark Willers, CEO of MinWind Energy at Luverne, MN; and Loni Kemp, Senior Policy Analyst for the Minnesota Project.

Farm Land Usage
"Farm Land Usage … Finding a Balance between Production, Conservation, and Development" is the feature forum on Wednesday, August 8, at 10:30 a.m. Future land use and zoning issues have become a major policy issue, and will be addressed during this Forum. The panel for this forum will include Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau, Gene Hugoson, MN Commissioner of Agriculture; Mark Holsten, MN DNR Commissioner; Perry Aasness, USDA State Farm Service Agency Director; and Steve Taff, U of Minnesota Agricultural Economist.

Grain Marketing
A special grain and livestock marketing Forum is scheduled for Wednesday, August 8, at 1:30 p.m., "Grain and Livestock Marketing Strategies During Volatile Markets." The panel for this forum will include four well-known marketing experts: Al Kluis, president of Northland Commodities and grain marketing analyst for The Corn And Soybean Digest; Mark Schultz, Northstar Commodities; Kent Beadle, Country Hedging; and Ed Usset, U of Minnesota grain marketing specialist. The Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL) Program will also have a forum on Wednesday, August 8, at 3:15 p.m., featuring current and former MARL members.

Strengthening The Minnesota Rural Economy
The feature forum on Thursday, August 9, at 10:30 a.m., is “Strengthening Rural Minnesota’s Economic Future." The panel for this forum will include Steve Wenzel, USDA Rural Development state director; Dan McElroy, MN Dept. of Employment and Economic Development commissioner; Bev Durgan, Dean of the U of Minnesota Extension service; and Jack Geller, executive director of the Center for Rural Policy Development.

Governor Pawlenty Honors Farm Families
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty will be the keynote speaker at the Farm Family of the Year Recognition Program,on Thursday, August 9, at 1:30 p.m., in the forum tent. More than 60 honored farm families from Minnesota were selected at the county level for this recognition.

For more information on the forums at Farmfest, contact Kent Thiesse.

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.