Archive for the ‘Grassroots’ Category

County delegates produce new resolutions for 2012

These directives will be presented for approval at MCGA annual meeting

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

As a grassroots farmer organization, Minnesota Corn Growers Association undertook one of its most vital functions at the recent Pre-resolutions meeting in Morton, where 66 delegates representing 27 local corn grower organizations gathered to craft language to express the direction MCGA will take in the coming year on the issues that impact farmers the most.

Resolutions ranged in topic from mundane details of the tax code, to the cutting edge of research based on the genetic code of corn.

The resolutions accepted by the group will be presented for a vote by all delegates to the MCGA Annual meeting which takes place in mid-January, during MN Ag EXPO. There is a change of venue for EXPO this year. The annual meeting, educational sessions and trade show will take place Monday and Tuesday, January 23 and 24, at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato.

A number of resolutions recognize the fact that change is coming to government ethanol programs, both on the national and state levels. Funding programs are sunsetting, and the farmer delegates responded by creating resolutions to encourage the US Congress and Minnesota Legislature to consider reinvesting those funds into other means of supporting alternative energy, or other important means for assuring the prosperity of farmers and rural communities. One resolution called for the federal government to move E85 into the same tax program with alternative fuels based on propane and hydrogen, which both receive a 50 cent per gallon tax credit. With the sunset of Minnesota’s Small Ethanol Producer credit, another MCGA resolution urges the state to consider keeping those funds rural in focus.

Land acquisitions by state and local government units raised concerns among county groups this year. Delegates proposed resolutions that require government to have a management plan that includes dedicated funds whenever it acquires land, and further that fund be provided to offset losses to local tax base when private land is made public. Another resolution proposed that land acquisitions financed by Legacy State Sales Tax funds be limited to no net gain, to assure the government will not become an unwieldy competitor in the land market, which is already seeing major price spikes.

Another resolution focuses on rationalizing the state/federal approach to wetlands by creating wetlands mitigation banking that focuses on agricultural land use, making it easier for farmers to develop sensible plans for using their land while maintaining the net acreage and quality of wetlands in the state.

Looking closely into state tax code, one resolution proposed reinstatement of the state homestead tax credit for farm production land and farm sites. The resolution spotlights the bind this may place some counties in, of having to choose to raise other property taxes or cut services.

Science and research are seen as a fundamental ingredient to continued farmer prosperity, and so a resolution focused on corn genomics. Now that the genome map has been completed, MCGA should advocate for publicly-funded research based on genomics and phenotypic data, to improve the agronomic performance of the corn plant.

In applied science that comes even closer to the farm, a resolution notes the rise of certain technologies that may interfere with global positioning satellite data. Given the growing reliance on GPS data in order to operate machinery and deliver inputs with greater and greater precision, the resolution calls for opposition to such technologies that interfere with GPS.

These and other new resolutions will be voted on, and those approved will be added to the MCGA policy book. Those resolutions of a national character will be brought forward to the National Corn Growers Association policy and priority meeting in January, and receive full consideration by the national delegates in early March at the Commodity Classic agricultural conference and trade show.

MCGA Annual Awards spotlight the essentials: farmers who experienced production success & those who help all farmers achieve success & leaders who strengthen MCGA’s grassroots

When hundreds drew together for the Minnesota Corn Growers Awards Banquet on Monday, January 17, during MN Ag EXPO, they applauded MCGA’s top membership recruiters who have kept the rolls over 6,000 members once again–a key to commanding the attention of key elected officials and policy makers in Saint Paul and Washington.

“I want to congratulate MCGA for another successful year,” said Jerry Ploehn, a farmer in Alpha, Minnesota, and chairman of the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council. He told the audience, “We want to thank all you folks for your support of the corn industry and the corn check off. Looking back, 2010 was a very busy and productive year. We funded projects and saw exciting progress in biomass energy, distillers grains, and water quality, among others. We also forged important and exciting partnerships that help us reach out and tell the farmer’s story to a growing number of people, through new partnerships with Twins Baseball, the University of Minnesota Gophers sports teams and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, to mention a few.”

The presence of the incoming and outgoing Minnesota agriculture commissioners signaled the special place that Minnesota Corn Growers Association holds as a leadership group ensuring a bright future for our state. Commissioner Gene Hugoson, the longest serving state agriculture commissioner in US history, ended his 15-year tenure–held across three governor administrations–came to the stage for the Kernel Award–MCGA’s highest recognition. Since his appointment in 1995 by Gov. Arne Carlson, Hugoson successfully steered the state’s agriculture program to ensure that Minnesota farm producers enjoyed one of the most prosperous periods ever–through support of value added agriculture, exports, as well as educational programs and programs to benefit the environment.

As Hugoson left the podium, he received warm congratulations from Dave Frederickson, who began this month as the new Minnesota commissioner of agriculture. Frederickson comes to the role at the pinnacle of a distinguished career of service to agriculture that has included a tenure in the state senate when he helped pass Minnesota’s groundbreaking ethanol programs–the producer support program and the ten percent ethanol gasoline blend requirement. Frederickson went on to serve as state and national president of the Farmers Union, and has worked most recently as a constituent liaison for US Senator Amy Klobuchar, focusing on farm and rural issues. Both Frederickson and Hugoson remain active in farming, which members of MCGA have sited as a key qualification–these officials know firsthand about the needs of agricultural producers.

Three University of Minnesota agricultural scientists received MCGA’s Friend of Agriculture award–recognition of distinguished careers, and also underlining the interest of Minnesota corn producers in achieving environmental benefits through better agricultural science. Soil Scientists Gyles Randall, Satish Gupta and John Moncrief received this award. As the debate over the environmental impact of agriculture intensifies, the work of these scientists and those following them will lay the foundation for a model in which agriculture becomes more productive while managing its environmental impact so that everyone can enjoy the state’s vast natural resources for generations to come.

“They go after the truth,” MCGA Pres. Greg Schwarz told the audience. “What we are looking for is what is actually happening in the rural landscape, and that is what their scientific research is establishing.”

Recognition also went to a group of leaders who have all given generously of their time, most for more than a decade, who are retiring this year from the MCGA board of directors: past MCGA president Doug Albin, Roger Dale, Tim Dolan, Tim Dritz and Jeffrey Larson. The immediate past-president, DeVonna Zeug, received the MCGA Presidential Gavel award.

Of Zeug, Schwarz said, “What always impressed me and has truly influenced me in DeVonna’s leadership style was that, when we debated big questions, she would say ‘What’s in the best interest of Minnesota Corn Growers, what’s in the best interest of the farmers?'”

MCGA’s top recruiters for the year were Lori Feltis, Connie Mulder, Robert Nelsen, Myron “Mickey” Peterson and Doug Toreen–all achieving 350 points or more in the recruitment ranking. Gayle Bergstrom and Dale Sunderman achieved 250 points; Denice Dirks achieved 200 points; Larry Litzau and Ryan Buck achieved 150 points; Wade Kallevig, Wes Nelson, Richard Peterson and Jerry Ploehn surpassed 100 points and Tom Haag, Nathan Haag, Byron Olson and Thomas Williamson surpassed 50 points in recruitment–all signing new members and getting commitments from existing members to continue their membership in MCGA.

Also honored were Minnesota’s top producers in the NCGA National Corn Yield Contest. In a bin buster year for Minnesota growers, there were still more than a dozen standout producers recognized.

The contest recognizes to achievers in six different categories of cultivation method:

In AA No Till/ Strip Till, Non-Irrigated:
First Place: McNallan Farms of Kellogg with a yield of 252.7
Second Place: Paul Hamann of Fountain with a yield of 247.1
Third Place: Jordan Redalen of Fountain with a yield of 244.9

AA Non-Irrigated:
First Place: Craig Leland of Bricelyn with a yield of 263.6
Second Place: Kevin Zimmer of Fairmont with a yield of 260.9
Third Place: Gary and Jim Sobeck of Winona with a yield of 257.7

No-Till/Strip-Till Irrigated
First Place: Braun Farms, Inc., of LeSueur with a yield of 237.1
Second Place: Jeff Tiemann Royalton with a yield of 235.3

Ridge Till Non-Irrigated
First Place: Charlie Hamm of Litchfield with a yield of 249.5
Second Place Bruce Hamm of Litchfield with a yield of 231.7
Third Place: Fred Behnke of Grove City with a yield of 220.8 

Ridge Till Irrigated
First Place: Crow River Farms, Inc., of Darwin with a yield of 232.3 

Irrigated
First Place: James Gergen of Hastings with a yield of 245.0
Second Place: Bill Schaffer of Hastings with a yield of 244.1
Third Place: Roger Peine of Cannon Falls with a yield of 243.0

Grassroots voice heard at MCGA pre-resolution meeting

Delegates from more than three dozen county corn grower organizations gathered Thursday, Dec. 2 and put together a variety of potential additions to the Minnesota Corn Growers Association policy book for 2011.

These new resolutions will be polished into final form and approved at the MCGA annual meeting, which takes place during MN Ag EXPO, Monday and Tuesday, January 17 and 18 at Jackpot Junction Resort and Casino in Morton.

Because ethanol still provides a cornerstone for farm prosperity in Minnesota, a number of resolutions focused on helping farm-based energy industries continue to grow.

The federal Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) is set to expire on Dec. 31, and given the uncertainty that it will be reauthorized, a resolution supporting mandatory use of ethanol, as provided in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, be maintained regardless of whether these VEETC payments continue to flow to fuel blenders. Farmers favor incentive-based programs as the most effective way to build markets or encourage actions with a perceived public benefit. But lacking VEETC, America should nevertheless not back away from its commitment to increase alternatives to imported oil.

Looking more particularly at Minnesota, delegates voted to keep a resolution on the books supporting the continuation of ethanol producer payments. At this point most of the ethanol plants have obtained the support that the state promised these businesses for undertaking the risk of pioneering the ethanol industry. Reauthorizing or replenishing funding for the program could potentially encourage expansion of ethanol production in Minnesota, which MCGA supports. Minnesota currently produces a billion gallons of ethanol fuel, much of which is exported out of state and is a major boost to the Minnesota economy.

Another resolution seeks to short-circuit a potential conflict of interest in state agencies: to assure that funds that proceed from fines levied against ethanol producers flow into the state’s general fund, rather than to the operating fund of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Currently, MPCA receives those funds directly, and the proposed resolution expressed the sense that this creates an unhealthy incentive to authorize fines.

As more government programs seek to take agricultural land out of production for environmental benefit, MCGA delegates argued for more deliberation and planning in government’s approach to such land set-asides–to assure that no localities bear an unfair burden. A resolution calls for such set asides to require a fiscal impact assessment that will determine where funds for the purchase and upkeep of land will come from and show the impact on local tax revenues and local economic activity.

Concerns continue to grow regarding how government conducts meetings across the range of units of government, and state and regional agencies. A resolution supports measures that will ensure the maintenance of Minnesota’s open meeting laws. The resolution proposes several measures, including requiring that all meetings allow not only written but also verbal submissions for the record, and requiring the video recording of all government meetings, to assure fair and accurate reporting of the outcome of these meetings in official minutes because this has a bearing on how these government units handle the issues reviewed at these meetings.