SE MN community leader meets with DC Policymakers on ag investments, opportunities to cut waste
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 3:52 AM
At a time when policymakers in Washington, D.C., are debating the future of federal farm policy, Tim Gossman traveled to the Capitol to meet with several top agriculture decision makers. Gossman, who is a farm loan officer and senior vice president at Root River State Bank in Chatfield, went to D.C. earlier this month with a group of other Land Stewardship Project (LSP) members with a simple message: this is a critical time to support beginning farmers and conservation while cutting costs by reforming large crop subsidies.
Tim Gossman meeting with U.S. Rep. Tim Walz
"This Congress needs to move forward a Farm Bill that invests in the growing areas of agriculture like new farmer support, local food efforts and sound conservation for working farmland like the Conservation Stewardship Program," said Gossman.
During two days of whirlwind meetings, Gossman and the other LSP members met with Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Agriculture Committee member Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), as well as Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.).
After numerous delays, Congress is expected to take up a full Farm Bill re-authorization this coming spring, with a strong focus on reducing overallcosts and simplifying programs. Unfortunately, innovative beginning farmer, conservation and local foods programs are threatened with major budget cuts, while excessive federal crop subsidies could remain untouched, according to Adam Warthesen, an LSP policy organizer.
"Farmers as a group are getting older. It is vital for our rural communities and our future food supply that we enable people who want to begin farming to have that chance," said Gossman. "Our message to policymakers in Washington, D.C., is that part of the answer to making this happen is by funding programs and improving policies that support beginning farmers, and removing barriers that deter entry into farming."
Gossman also operates a small farm and serves on the Fillmore Soil and Water Conservation District Board. He said he is particularly concerned about the role farm policy plays in promoting farming practices that threaten the region's soil and water.
"I've been frustrated by the deterioration of our soil and water quality the last few years in southeastern Minnesota. We are seeing more highly erodible land converted from pasture and hay to row crops, often with little regard to preserving our soil for future generations," said Gossman. "And while strong crop prices are clearly playing a role in how the landscape is being farmed, we also have government programs, like federally subsidized crop insurance, that have no conservation guidelines or expectations. While crop insurance is a vital safety net for farmers, taxpayers are right to demand that good conservation practices will be followed by farmers using this program."