DGA Update: Proposed Bills Can Help Stem Tide of Family Farm Losses
Recently, I was approached by Land Stewardship Project to help with some lobbying for farmers in crisis. Right now, Minnesota has 800 farm families that are in the mediation process and trying to avoid foreclosure. Years of low prices and now the COVID-19 crisis have put many farmers over the edge. Farmers need time for the market to recover so they can make their payments.
In 2019, for the second year in a row, Minnesota lost more than 300 dairy farms. If the farms in mediation do not get an extension, I am afraid to see what we may lose this year. We can’t afford to keep losing small family farms. We have seen with the meatpacking industry what consolidating to large companies does in a pandemic situation as this. Family farms are an important part of the history of this country and to the communities they live in. This pandemic has shown how important it is to have smaller, separated farms instead of large factory dairies.
The proposed Bill SF 4553 would extend the farm mediation process through the end of harvest. The hope is that the markets will recover by then and the farmers will be able to reach a deal through mediation. There are two other bills that are on the docket as well: SF 4177, which provides more funding for farm advocates during this critical time; and SF 3580, which creates an $880,000 grant program to cover origination fees of loan restructuring for farmers and lenders in mediation so farmers don’t incur extra fees on top of the debts they consolidate.
I urge you, as farmers, to get involved and talk to your Senators and legislators about supporting bills and your fellow farmers. This COVID-19 crisis has really hit hard on all the agricultural sectors and farmers need to work together to help each other get through.