Joel Schreurs

Joel Schreurs of Tyler, Minn., talks about long-standing farmer efforts to build export markets for soybeans. Schreurs serves as a board member on the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.

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REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. – It was an emotional day Aug. 7 at the Minnesota Farmfest. Farmers and industry professionals were given the opportunity to address U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue as well as members of the U.S. House Ag Committee.

For an hour and a half people came forward to voice concerns, ask questions, raise issues and offer gratitude. Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson moderated the event with Perdue. Topics included the trade war, dairy-protection programs, water-quality issues and immigration. 

Trade with China was a reoccurring topic.

“I think like most people we agreed with the president that we need to look at all agreements, trade agreements, maybe we could do things better, no disagreement there,” one farmer said. “But we disagree with how the president approached it, going at it alone, specifically with China.”

Many agreed with that statement, saying they wished the president had first built relationships with trade allies -- and then had together addressed China’s trade offenses. While farmers said they’re grateful for Market Facilitation Payments, many said they would much rather have trade and markets to sell their grain into.

One particularly emotional moment was when a farmer talked about the hardships dairy farmers are facing.

“The dairy industry is really hurting this year,” said Tiffany Knot of Wabasso, Minnesota. “Wisconsin saw it last year in record numbers selling out and Minnesota is going to see it this year. We already are. I've seen five farms sell out since January; two of them were 400 to 500 cows each.”

At the closing of the event Perdue encouraged producers to visit USDA.gov/tellsonny to submit comments and questions.

“I want to hear from you,” he said. “We may not be able to solve everything, but we will respond.”

This article originally ran on agupdate.com.

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