Farmfest will feature an exciting line-up of feature forums and a Farm Family of the Year recognition event in 2009. The forums will be held August 4, 5 and 6, 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 2009 has a heavy emphasis on national and state agriculture policy issues, and toward strengthening the rural economy in Minnesota. Special feature forums will talk about National ag policy issues, climate change and developing future land use policy. All of the forums will provide ample time for audience questions and follow-up discussion by panel members.

“Beyond the New Farm Bill: Shaping the Future of Rural America"is the feature forum on Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 10:30 a.m. Minnesota U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken both hope to participate; Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson, chair of the U.S. House Ag Committee, and First District Congressman Tim Walz, are both confirmed to participate in the forum.

Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union president will speak at a special afternoon forum, “Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Agriculture,” which is scheduledfor Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 1:15 p.m. The forum will provide an overview of the likely impacts of climate change and how it might affect the agriculture industry, current climate change legislative proposals and the likely future impact of carbon credit trading. In addition to Johnson, the forum panel will feature David Ladd, manager of government services for AgriBank; Bryce Anderson, DTN meteorologist; Charles Soule, carbon trading specialist for Country Hedging; Staci Bohlen, national issues specialist for Minnesota Farm Bureau; Doug Albin, Minnesota Corn Growers president; and Mark Glaess, general manager of the Minnesota Rural Electric Assn.

"The Minnesota Ag Industry: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?"is the feature forum on Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 10:30 a.m. Tom Scott, president of Informa Economics will give a keynote presentation on future trends in Minnesota’s agriculture industry. The response panel will include: Gene Hugoson, Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture; Brad Finstad, director of the Minnesota Rural Policy Center; Kevin Paap, Minnesota Farm Bureau president; and Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union president.

A special livestock industry forum is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 1:15 p.m. "Keeping the Livestock Industry as a Cornerstone of the MN Economy" has an excellent panel of livestock leaders, including: Ed Welch, president and CEO of AMPI; Mark Greenwood, vice president of Agri-Business Capital for AgStar; and Steve Meyer, nationally recognized livestock economist for Paragon Economics. They will be joined by three Minnesota producers: Randy Spronk, Edgerton, National Pork Producers Assn. board; Ted Reichmann, Villard, Minnesota Cattleman’s Assn. president; and Bruce Schmoll, Claremont, Minnesota Soybean Growers Assn. secretary.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be the keynote speaker at the feature forum on Thursday, Aug. 6, at 10:30 a.m., “Making Minnesota Strong for the Next Decade and Beyond." The response panel will include several state leaders including: Carol Molnau, Minnesota lieutenant governor; Colleen Landkamer, the new USDA Rural Development state director; Linda Hennen, the new state Farm Service Agency director for Minnesota; Bev Durgan, dean and director of the U of M Extension Service; and Jim Mulder, executive director of the Association of Minnesota Counties.

Three special grain marketing seminars will be held at Farmfest featuring some of the top grain marketing analysts in the upper Midwest. The first marketing forum on Tuesday at 9 a.m. will feature Bryce Anderson, well-known DTN Meteorologist and weather expert, and Darin Newsome, DTN senior grain marketing analyst. The second grain marketing forum will be held Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 9 a.m., during the Minnesota Farm Bureau breakfast, which is from 8 to 10 a.m., and will feature Mark Schultz of NorthStar Commodities in Minneapolis. The third forum on Thursday at 9 a.m. will feature well-known grain marketing analyst Al Kluis of Kluis Commodities in Minneapolis.

The Farm Family of the Year recognition program will be held on Thursday, Aug. 6, at 1:30 p.m., in the forum tent. Approximately 65 honored farm families from throughout Minnesota have been selected at the county level for this recognition. This recognition event is jointly sponsored by Farmfest and the University of Minnesota. Other special events in the forum tent include the farmers.com program on Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 3 p.m., the introduction of the 2009 Minnesota State Pork Ambassador on Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 1 p.m. and the Farmfest auctioneering championship on Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 3 p.m. Of course, there will also be music provided by the Great Pretenders in the forum tent throughout the three days of Farmfest.

For more information on the forums at Farmfest, contact Kent Thiesse, Farmfest forum coordinator (507-381-7960 or kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com).

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.