Ag Policy Forum: National farm groups need young voices

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

It’s a time of decision for agriculture. That became clear at the National Ag Policy Forum at Farmfest last week as farmer leaders discussed the many issues requiring action sooner than later.

While crucial topics like trade, infrastructure and farm labor soon to be decided in congress will weigh heavy on production, the panel reached consensus on the need to grow participation of younger farmers in the grassroots efforts that are vital to the future of farming.

For Tom Haag, a fourth-generation farmer in Eden Valley, getting young people involved in farm organizations may be the key to success with farm policy issues.

A board member with both the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), Haag would like to see more young farmers get involved in groups like NCGA, National Farmers Union and American Farm Bureau.

“That is one of the biggest things [young farmers] can do to make sure that their voice is heard, whether it’s at the county, state or national level,” Haag said. “You have to make sure that you are communicating with your local and national politicians because if we don’t talk to them they think everything is fine back home.”

Also panelists, Zippy Duvall, president of American Farm Bureau, and Gary Wertish, president of Minnesota Farmers Union, both urged young people to use social media daily to tell positive stories about what they are doing on the farm to fight the misconceptions held by the non-farming public.

For example, sustainable ag practices are a very popular topic among young farmers, according to the panelists.

Haag mentioned the participation of young farmers in MCGA’s Innovation Grant Program, which funds farmer-led, conservation-focused research projects on farms throughout Minnesota. MCGA also supports the the Soil Health Partnership, an initiative of NCGA, which now has 111 locations across the Midwest where farmers are conducting research into practices like cover crops and reduced tillage to protect the soil.

To learn how you can become involved in MCGA, or for more details on the MCGA Innovation Grant Program or Soil Health Partnership visit mncorn.org.

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