Candidate Forums Highlight Farmfest

All major candidates in the 2006 election races for Minnesota Governor and U.S. Senate will be participating in the Farmfest Candidate Forums. The candidate forums, along with feature forums on Renewable Energy and Avian Flu, will be held at Farmfest on August 1, 2, and 3, in the Forum Tent. Farmfest will be held at the Gilfillan Estate, 7 miles southeast of Redwood Falls, MN. A special event at Farmfest will be the “Farm Family of the Year”recognition program, honoring approximately 60 honored Minnesota farm families. This will be held on Thursday, August 3, at 1:30 pm, in the Forum Tent. Farmfest and the University of Minnesota jointly sponsor this event. Below are the highlights for the Farmfest forums:

U.S. Senate Candidates Forum

Both Republican Candidate Congressman Mark Kennedy, and Democratic Candidate Amy Klobuchar, will participate in the "U.S. Senate Candidate’s Forum On Agriculture and Rural Issues"at Farmfest on Tuesday, Aug. 1, at 10:30 am. Robert Fitzgerald, the Independence Party endorsed candidate, will also participate in the Forum. A panel of agriculture radio and newspaper reporters will question the U.S. Senate Candidates on issues affecting agriculture and rural communities. The U.S. Senate race in Minnesota has drawn national attention, and this will be one of the first times that the major candidates appear in a forum together.

Congressional Candidates Forum

The "Congressional Candidate’s Forum On Agriculture and Rural Issues"is the title of the afternoon forum on Tuesday, Aug. 1, at 1:30 pm. The following Congressional candidates (and their district) will participate in the forum: Congressman Gil Gutknecht (First) and Congressman Collin Peterson (Seventh), along with their primary challengers, Tim Walz (First) and Michael Barrett (Seventh), along with Colleen Rowley (Second), Michele Bachmann (Sixth), Patty Wetterling (Sixth), and Rod Grams (Eighth). They will face questions on a wide range of agriculture policy and rural issues from a panel of agriculture leaders from various agriculture organizations and commodity groups.

Governor Candidates Forum

The three major endorsed candidates for Governor of Minnesota have agreed to participate in the "Governor’s Candidate’s Forum On Rural Minnesota"at Farmfest on Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 10:30 am. They are Governor Tim Pawlenty, Mike Hatch, and Peter Hutchinson. A panel of radio and newspaper reporters that cover rural Minnesota will pose questions to the gubernatorial candidates on a variety of farm and rural issues. This will be one of the first forums for the three endorsed candidates for Governor, and probably one of the few forums on rural issues.

Renewable Fuels Forum

A special feature Forum at Farmfest on Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 1:30 pm. is titled: "The Renewable Fuel Industry…Positioning For The Future.”Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who will be introduced by Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson, will give keynote addresses. The response panel for this forum will include Gerald Tumbleson, National Corn Growers Assn. president, Sherburn, MN; Bill Lee, general manager of Chippewa Valley Ethanol, Inc., Benson, MN; Steve Taff, Extension agriculture economist at the University of Minnesota; Greg Cuomo, Director of the U of M West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris, MN; and Tim Gerlach, executive director of the American Lung Assn. in MN. This impressive set of experts will take a critical and proactive look at the present status and future opportunities for the renewable fuel industry.

Avian Flu And FMD Forum

“Avian Flu, Foot and Mouth Disease, Agro Terrorism …… What Are The Risks?"is the title for the feature forum on Thursday, Aug. 3, at 10:30 am. Panel members will include: Dr. Marguerite Pappiounou, University of Minnesota Professor with a joint appointment in both Community Health and Veterinary Medicine; Kate Iola, a farm writer and novelist from Northwest Iowa; Bob Meeks, Executive Director of the Minnesota School Boards Assn.; Aggie Leitheiser, Director of Emergency Preparedness for the MN Dept. of Health; and Kevin Elfering, director of the Food and Dairy Inspection Division for the MN Dept. of Agriculture. This outstanding panel will analyze the potential threats and response efforts in Minnesota and surrounding states to avian flu, foot and mouth disease, and agro terrorism. The panel will also respond to audience questions.

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

Editors 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