ST PAUL – As Americans celebrate the 52ndannual Earth Day today, Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) recognizes its members who work tirelessly to protect the environment and leave their land better for the next generation.
MFU Vice President Anne Schwagerl serves on Gov. Walz’s Advisory Council on Climate Change and is a leader in the state’s Perennial Promise Cooperative, a cooperative of Kernza® growers. Kernza® is a perennial grain that can be substituted for wheat in baked goods and beer and used as a whole grain like barley or rice. MFU member Hannah Bernhardt, who farms near Finlayson, serves on the National Farmers Union Climate Change Policy Advisory Panel. Other members have testified in support of drought assistance, which is vital to keeping livestock on the land and supporting specialty crop producers who bring plant diversity to the landscape.
Other initiatives MFU is supporting in the climate arena this legislative session include:
- Soil health initiatives that will help farmers implement voluntary conservation practices. Many of our members are interested in practices that will help them retain topsoil, hold water where it falls and deliver ecosystem services, but the initial investment in equipment, seed or other inputs is prohibitively expensive. Grants proposed to advance soil health practices and promote the use of cover crops will create the financial bridge many farmers need to start implementing these practices.
- Repealing the sales tax on fencing equipment. Making this change retroactive through last summer will provide many livestock producers with needed relief as the drought pushed many livestock farmers to invest in fencing new pasture, erect temporary fencing on state-owned land or build paddocks. Long-term, this investment will help grazers reinvest in their operations, graze more intentionally and remain resilient to future droughts.
- Funding Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) through a new local government aid program to provide them with the stable, long-term funding. SWCD staff serve as the trusted, local, boots-on-the-ground partners in assisting farmers in meeting their on-farm conservation goals, providing direct technical assistance, demonstrating new practices and connecting with state and federal resources.
These initiatives are being supported because the grassroots MFU membership elevated the issue of climate. Members adopted a special order of business at their 2021 convention calling for action on climate change and for the state and federal government to support farmer-led efforts to protect the planet.
Members called for:
- Fully funding research at land-grant universities to research and scale alternative crops and practices that can improve farm finances and make farms more resilient.
- Making conservation equipment available to farmers to implement new practices.
- Funding to expand the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program and other voluntary state and federal programs that incentivize on-the-ground practices that promote soil health and improve the climate.
- Expanding the use of biofuels and on-farm renewable energy.
“As a farmer that is deeply committed to leaving my farm better for future generations, Earth Day is every day on our farm,” Schwagerl said. “From soil health and conservation education to economic viability and new markets for climate-friendly products, we all need to work together to make our farms more sustainable for generations to come.”
About Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota Farmers Union works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. MFU is a nonprofit membership-based organization. Membership is open to everyone. Learn more and join at www.mfu.org and follow MFU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.