ST. PAUL – While rain fell in parts of Minnesota over the weekend, drought conditions remain and farmers visiting the Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) hoop barn at Farmfest said government action is needed.
In a letter to Gov. Walz, Lt. Gov. Flanagan, Sen. Torrey Westrom and Rep. Mike Sundin, MFU President Gary Wertish urged swift action to provide relief to farmers.
“For many, the situation has become dire,” Wertish wrote in the letter. “Your action in the coming weeks will be critical to keeping some families in agriculture. . . . Nearly 80 percent of Minnesota is facing severe drought conditions that are stunting the growth of conventional and specialty crops, drying up water sources for livestock and deteriorating pasture used for haying and grazing.”
The letter was sent the same day the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, that predicts heat waves, droughts and flood-inducing downpours will worsen unless there are deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change was among the topics discussed in the Wick Buildings Farmfest Center, with National Farmers Union President Rob Larew calling for a focus on farmer-driven solutions.
“When we talk about a response on drought, we can’t just talk about right now,” Larew said. “We have to come up with solutions to disaster, whether it’s drought or other weather extremes, that is going to give farmers of all kinds some certainty going forward.”
For now, MFU asks that legislators take immediate action to aid farmers and ranchers in Minnesota by offering “rapid-response grants” that allow access to grant money to pay for hauling forage, installing livestock waterers, drilling new wells and transporting livestock to greener pastures and installing fencing and waterers at those locations.
“We appreciate the continued support of lawmakers as farmers continue to search for ways to keep their livestock fed and watered,” Wertish said. “The drought is impacting all farmers differently. Some farmers need financial support, others need help pivoting their operation and creating a new business plan while others just need someone to listen and serve as a sounding board.”
Going forward, MFU will continue to advocate for climate-smart agriculture, which aims to improve the climate through carbon sequestration, planting perennial crops and building soil health.
— Minnesota Farmers Union
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