Klobuchar meets with local dairy farmers
GOODHUE -- Sen. Amy Klobuchar toured a local dairy farm Tuesday to hear comments and concerns from farmers and industry groups ahead of a Senate vote on the U.S. farm bill expected sometime next week.
Klobuchar was joined by more than a dozen farmers, Hastings Coop Creamery members and representatives from the Minnesota Milk Producers Association at the farm of Ann and Dave Buck located off County 9 Boulevard west of Goodhue.
After a brief tour of Buck's farm, Klobuchar sat down for an informal roundtable discussion that centered largely on the aftermath of the 2009 milk price crisis that saw a slew of Minnesota farmers call it quits.
"We know the current milk program isn't working very well, otherwise we wouldn't have lost so many farmers in Minnesota," Klobuchar told the crowd. "So thank you for hanging in there."
Farmers voiced concerns about federal controls on dairy price and production, arguing they could affect the competitiveness of dairy farms in the state.
"I don't want it in the state of Minnesota. I don't want it in the United States," said Neil Sjoquist of White Rock Dairy, who opposes dairy production controls even if it means avoiding a repeat of the plummeting milk prices in 2009.
"If we're not allowed to have the lows, we're never allowed to have the highs," Sjoquist said, "and the highs are very good."
The Senate's version of the farm bill includes a section that would repeal dairy product price support and milk income loss contract programs passed previously in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008.
Apart from the farm bill, attendees also brought up federal immigration reform as a top concern for local dairy farms, saying current citizenship and driver's license policies are not working.
"We have good families that have worked for us for years that are contributors to this community, and those people need a path to citizenship," said Jon Huseth of Clay View Dairy. "They have been productive members of our society."
Huseth said reform proposals like seasonal work permits do not pertain to dairy farming, which is more of a year-round activity.
"As you can see here today, (Dave Buck) has a business that runs 365 days a year, 24 hours a day," Huseth said. "We don't have the opportunity to hire seasonal labor."
Klobuchar said comprehensive immigration reform would be the Senate's next step after the passage of the farm bill.
"The farm bill has some good things in there. Without it we're not going to have rural development," Klobuchar said. "Our hope is to get it in for five years so everyone knows what the rules are."