Rally for Agriculture Brings Attention to Ongoing Issues in Front of Trump’s Visit to ND

Leaders of state farm organizations and hunger advocates led a rally today at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo to show support for agriculture amid ongoing issues with trade, ethanol production, nutrition programs and the farm bill.

“Projections indicate that we’ll lose another 30 percent in farm income this year,” said Mark Watne, North Dakota Farmers Union president. “Trade has a direct impact on every farmer’s bottom line, and if efforts to lower ethanol production benchmarks in the Renewable Fuel Standard are successful, it will be a double whammy for North Dakota producers. More than ever, we need a strong crop insurance program, safety net and laser focus on issues that impact farm income.”

Bryan Klabunde, vice president of Minnesota Farmers Union, agreed, “With a depressed agricultural economy, it’s crucial for our family farmers to have good trade agreements and a farm bill. The current uncertainty has put downward pressure on market prices,” he said. “We call on our elected officials to come to solutions soon that will benefit family farmers.”

North Dakota Dairy Coalition President Russell Edgar echoed support for equitable trade agreements. He said 18.8 percent of all U.S. milk production is exported, some $1.3 billion in milk products to Mexico and $636 million to Canada. “U.S. dairy has a $628 billion impact to the U.S. economy,” he said in a statement, noting that a viable guest-worker program is needed in the dairy industry with a streamlined application process for visas. He also called North Dakota a “milk deficit state,” saying investment in dairy cows and processing is badly needed.

Hunger relief advocates addressed rallygoers, as well. “The farm bill is about more than farming; it’s about the entire life cycle of food, from growing to eating,” said Melissa Sobolik, director of the Great Plains Food Bank’s Ending Hunger 2.0 program. “As the only food bank in the state of North Dakota, we work with many of the federal nutrition programs in the farm bill and are proud to stand beside farmers, ranchers, commodity groups and rural organizations to ensure we have a strong safety net for those growing the food and for those eating it. Together, we can ensure a strong, bipartisan farm bill is passed.”

Sobolik noted that 54,000 North Dakotans rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to put food on their tables, including farmers, ranchers and rural families. “SNAP is our nation’s first line of defense to end hunger and we can’t turn our backs on our hungry neighbors,” she said.