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Get to know your legislators/leaders at Farmfest Forums

Farmfest Forums

Wick Buildings Farmfest Center provides a cool spot to sit down and enjoy a good forum topic.

Contributing to the success of Farmfest are town hall forums held each day of the large outdoor show. Farmfest will be held Aug. 2-4, 2022. The forums are held at the Wick Buildings Farmfest Center, located near the center of the Farmfest grounds.

For 35 years, Kent Thiesse has served as forum coordinator, and he’s done a great job keeping each forum informative and entertaining.

Because it’s an even year, political forums will be held. The first Farmfest political forums were held back in 1990.

“It’s a long, rich history of holding candidate forums for the major races in the state of Minnesota,” Thiesse said.

There is a governor’s race this year, as well as congressional races. Neither of the U.S. senate seats are up for election in Minnesota in 2022. Thiesse invites everyone to attend these important forums.

On Tuesday, Aug. 2, 9:30-10:20 a.m., the First Congressional District Candidates Forum on Ag and Rural Issues will introduce the Republican and Democratic candidates running to fill the seat of late Congressman Jim Hagedorn (R) in southeast Minnesota. Hagedorn passed away on Feb. 17, 2022, and a special election will be held on Aug. 9.

The Candidates are Brad Finstad (R) and Jeff Ettinger (D).

The campaign has brought a lot of attention to the First District as both parties are hoping for a win.

“This is a highly anticipated race – not only in Minnesota, but across the country, as it’s an open seat,” Thiesse said. “That allows for a little extra focus and a few more questions for this race.”

Then, from 10:30-11:50 a.m., the audience will hear from the other rural candidates running for the U.S. House.

Congressional District Candidates Forum on Ag and Rural Issues features eight incumbents and their challengers including: Congresswoman Angie Craig (D-Second) and Tyler Kistner (R-Second); Congressman Tom Emmer (R-Sixth) and Jeanne Hendricks (D-Sixth); Congresswoman Michele Fischbach (R-Seventh) and Jill Abahsain (D-Seventh); as well as Congressman Pete Stauber (R-Eighth) and Jen Schultz (D-Eighth).

“All of the incumbents and their challengers have agreed to take part in the forums,” he said.

The Farmfest forum for the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 2, from 1:15-2:45 p.m., is titled: The Must-Haves in the Next Farm Bill.

It is hard to believe that it’s already time to write the next farm bill, but the current five-year bill expires on Sept. 30, 2023. Writing a new farm bill and getting it passed is a major endeavor.

“From a crops standpoint, the 2023 crop year is still covered by the current farm bill,” he said. “But when you think about it – for those farms in areas where they plant a lot of fall crops, like winter wheat, they start planting those in August/September ’23. That’s only a year away.”

Once a farm bill is passed, it takes time for USDA to get all the rules and information put together for implementation. Both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have held some hearings and listening sessions on the 2023 Farm Bill, but no official proposal has been introduced.

“Really, the administration hasn’t weighed in too much yet on what they want to see in the farm bill, so I think the timing is very good at Farmfest,” he said.

National leaders – all from Minnesota or South Dakota – will share their organization’s goals for the next farm bill.

These include Scott VanderWal, American Farm Bureau Federation; Rob Larew, National Farmers Unions; Don Schiefelbein, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; Terry Wolters, National Pork Producers Council; Tom Haag, National Corn Growers Association; George Goblish, American Soybean Association; and Ian Cunningham, National Association of Conservation Districts.

“This is a well-rounded group that is tied into national policy issues,” he said.

On Wednesday, Aug. 3, enjoy free pancakes and the Minnesota Farm Bureau Ag Outlook Forum, held in the Wick Buildings Farmfest Center. Pancakes with all the fixings will be served starting at 8 a.m., and the forum starts at 8:30 a.m. This event features many speakers who will discuss weather, crop updates, grain and livestock markets, and policy issues that are important to farmers and rural communities.

This all leads up to the Governor Candidate’s Forum Focusing on Greater Minnesota from 10:30-11:50 a.m. Moderated by Blois Olson, WCCO political analyst, two candidates will take part in this forum: Gov. Tim Walz (D) and Scott Jensen (R).

Thiesse said this will be one of the first times that Walz and Jensen will be in the same forum to discuss policy issues.

The final forum of the day is Getting the Most from Federal Ag Programs, which is scheduled for 1:15-2:45 p.m.

This is an opportunity to learn more about agricultural programs that affect farming every day. USDA is a constant resource and presence in rural communities and on farms. Farmers may think of the FSA commodity programs as being USDA, but the USDA is much more.

“There are a lot of agencies under the umbrella of USDA,” he said. “We’ve tried to put together a panel of agency leaders to explain what their agency is about, and to talk about some of the issues they are looking at – and answer questions.”

There will be overviews and interesting information from Whitney Place, Minnesota State Farm Service Agency director; Colleen Landkamer, Minnesota USDA Rural Development director; Troy Daniell, Minnesota NRCS state conservationist, Pam Stahlke, USDA Risk Management Agency regional director; Dan Loftus, National Ag Statistics Service statistician; and Dr. Stephan Schaefbauer, USDA APHIS veterinarian.

Then, on Thursday, Aug. 4, the Farmfest Women’s Forum begins at 10:45 a.m. This very exciting program will have families inspired to find joy and satisfaction in the important work of agriculture. The Farm Babe, Michelle Miller, will be speaking about her social media work, and the Farmfest Woman Farmer of the Year will be announced.

The Farm Family of the Year Recognition Program takes place at 1:15 p.m. This program honors families who have gone above and beyond in their counties – showing innovation, productivity, and community service.

Attend Farmfest Forums, Tuesday through Thursday, Aug. 2-4, 2022!

Kent Thiesse started as forum coordinator in 1988 when Farmfest was still held in Lake Crystal Minn., and he continued in that role when the farm show moved to Austin Minn., and then to Gilfillan Estates, between Morgan and Redwood Falls. Thiesse serves as senior vice president for MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, and volunteers for many 4-H and livestock activities. He also publishes a weekly “Focus on Ag” column that runs in many publications.

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