From the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi and the valleys of the Driftless Area in the east, to the wide open plains in the west, Minnesota’s First Congressional District is a rich landscape that has created and supported a prosperous tradition of family farming and agriculture. The well-being of our farms and land is directly connected to the prosperity of every town and city in southern Minnesota. That is why it is incumbent upon whoever represents us in Congress to support and expand opportunities for our farmers, and assist in stewardship of the land.
Agriculture, Farming, and Our Community
The farm economy is the foundation of southern Minnesota. When you travel from county to county, you are exposed to wide range of agricultural production. From small, family farms to regional co-ops, the spirit of community and hard work is embodied in our way of life. However, there is no doubt that the First District is feeling the pressure of an ever-changing economy, an aging workforce, and increased consolidation of farms. The health of our family farms is directly tied to the health of our small towns and cities, and to our soil and water. When elected, you can count on me to be a strong voice for our community in Congress.
A Strong Farm Bill
If our agricultural way of life is going to thrive for future generations, we must set a course that drives toward success in an uncertain future. This means pursuing a strong Farm Bill that supports family farmers, promotes innovation and stewardship of the land, and provides opportunities for the next generation of farmers. It means investing in technology that allows farmers to be more efficient in their crop production, saving time and costs. It means giving our farmers access to capital and loan forgiveness programs. And it means understanding, grappling with, and adjusting to the environmental impact our farms have on the soil, our communities, and future yields.
Healthy Soil and Clean Water
I believe farmers and agriculture can be leaders in protecting and improving our natural surroundings. However, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has labeled western and southern Minnesota’s streams and rivers as “most impaired,” stating that only 16 percent meet the standards for aquatic life. Because of rising nitrates, cities like Mankato can no longer draw water from local rivers and farmers have to buy expensive water purifying systems to drink from their wells.
I will be a leader in helping farmers steward their land by building healthy soil, using practices like cover crops and diversifying their crop rotations; and I will work with our community to protect our prized landscape and address the emerging water crisis.
We must inspire the next generation of farmers to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors. We know that the average age of farmers is on the rise. We can encourage growth in this field and incentivize our youth to pursue careers in agriculture by removing barriers of entry and exposing our children to the opportunities in farming through leadership programs like Future Farmers of America and Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings initiative.
Like Congressman Walz, I will be a champion for beginning farmers by supporting the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. There are people of all backgrounds who want to farm, and it is critical for our public policy to support those facing particular barriers, including farmers of color and immigrant and refugee farmers.
Transporting our goods and services to market in a global economy requires an efficient and cost effective transportation system. Inefficiency leads to higher prices for producers. Farmers and agriculture producers rely on roads, bridges, reliable freight rails, and access to barges to ensure that we are able to move commodities to reach major global markets. Investments in our transportation infrastructure, including a WRTA bill that upgrades our locks and dams, are critical to the future of the industry.