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Issue Position: Investing in Agriculture

Issue Position

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Vision

John Marty understands that a healthy statewide and rural economy in Minnesota benefits every one of us, and depends on a vital family farm system. Low prices and high production costs, coupled with state, federal and corporate policies targeted to the benefit of the largest industrial-style farms, have pushed thousands of family farmers off their land, contributed to the depletion and pollution of our natural resources, and led to the extraction of wealth from Minnesota's rural communities. Clearly Minnesota must rejuvenate its farm economy and reinvest in its rural communities.

While many of the solutions require policy changes at the federal level, much can still be done at a state level. John Marty will continue to work toward critical legislative initiatives that will ensure farmers have a livable income, promote new markets for products and encourage sustainable agricultural practices. John will work to support growth in the number of family farmers in our state and provide a strong voice for change nationally.

John Marty's Agenda for Minnesota's Agricultural Future

In order for family farmers to survive weather and market fluctuations they need economic policies that provide them stability. Fair farm prices, anti-corporate farm laws, equitable credit and lending policies, and accessible disaster assistance programs are a few examples of policies that contribute to creating and supporting strong family farms.

John will work in the legislature to:

1. Strengthen the rural economy

* Promote fair farm prices. Strongly advocate for federal agricultural policy changes that support a fair price for family farmers and eliminate farm subsidies for large corporate farms.
* Advocate for an energy policy that cleans up our environment and strengthens our farm economy through aggressive development of community-based renewable energy including wind power and bio-fuels.
* Promote efforts to build on the opportunity afforded to small and moderate scale family farms by the growth of local and regional food systems in our state and region. Advance policies to create and sustain farm to school programs for the food served to our kids in our schools. Support credit, technical assistance, and other state policies targeted to farms and small businesses growing, processing, distributing, and marketing food grown in Minnesota.
* Support efforts to promote new uses for farm products by supporting the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI).
* Strengthen Minnesota's Corporate Farm Act to limit corporations or cooperatives from entering into farm ownership, agricultural production or livestock feeding in Minnesota.
* Advance efforts to require the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to provide regular reports on the health of Minnesota's family farm economy, including updates comparing cost-of-production with actual prices for farmers, and the impact of family farm loss on employment and tax revenue for rural communities and the statewide economy. This public data is crucial in fighting for adequate farm prices and for developing an effective economic development plan for rural Minnesota.
* Support legislation to develop and rebuild the infrastructure that is needed throughout Minnesota. Just as President Franklin Roosevelt and the federal government invested in the Rural Electrification Act during the Depression in the 1930s, John knows we need to invest in bringing high-speed internet access across the state -- something that is essential for schools and for business and economic development in greater Minnesota. Roads, bridges and other rural infrastructure have also been neglected in recent years.

2. Promote and support family farming.

* Reduce reliance on property taxes. Property taxes are inherently unfair and can bankrupt farmers in bad years. John is working to move Minnesota away from property taxes to progressive income taxes, based on one's ability to pay, to fund education, human services, and other local government costs.
* John is continuing the fight to pass his single-payer Minnesota Health Plan (MHP), providing health care to everyone, with comprehensive benefits -- including dental care, prescription drugs, nursing home care, mental health and chemical dependency treatment -- financed with premiums based on one's ability to pay. Currently, many farm families need to find a job in town to provide some form of coverage, and even then, they are forced to pay exorbitant premiums for policies with poor coverage and unacceptably high deductibles. Our current health care system clearly discriminates against family farmers, small businesses and all residents of Greater Minnesota. John Marty's, MN Health Plan will end the health care crisis for farmers. The MHP may well be the single most important thing that the state can do to help farmers thrive.
* Provide for the expansion and updating of the Farm Advocate program, and make it more responsive to the needs of farmers from diverse backgrounds. Some new farmers are from families that immigrated to Minnesota in the last thirty years, and some are from native communities who were here long before European immigrants -- the Farm Advocate program needs to reflect the needs of farmers, whatever their background. This program provides advice and assistance to farmers facing economic distress including foreclosure, but has not had sufficient resources for many years. John supports expanding the program so that it not only advocates for farmers seeking loans, but that it also provides education and technical assistance relating to farming operations, helping farmers understand federal and state farm policy, assisting them in record keeping, and helping them with the business aspects of farming. With many newer immigrant farmers, their success, and the extent of the local economic development that success will bring, will depend on how effectively they can access local and regional markets like farmers' markets, local supermarkets and restaurants, local schools and nursing homes. The Farm Advocate program needs to help farmers in marketing, processing, and other related matters essential to being successful in tough economic times.
* John also backs policies and legislation that supports new and beginning farmers. New farmers in Minnesota are the children of long-time Minnesota farm families, and as well as relative newcomers to agriculture and newer immigrants to our state. All face major barriers like access to land, access to credit, access to training and education, yet their success is critical to a vital agriculture economy. State policies need to target affordable credit to beginning farmers, and support community-based training, education, and assistance programs to provide for beginning farmer success. We can revitalize communities through opportunities to restore vacant farmhouses, farm buildings and small acreages to use by new families moving into rural counties -- providing not only housing, but space for small-scale farming and marketing.

3. Promote environmentally sustainable agriculture research and farm practices.

* Many Minnesota farmers are now in the third or fourth generation on the land. They understand the importance of stewardship of natural resources and the need for environmentally sound, sustainable agricultural practices. Minnesota must ensure that there are positive alternatives for farmers that combine sustainable agriculture and profitability.
* Fund and support sustainable and organic agriculture research and demonstration at the University of Minnesota Research and Outreach Centers at Morris and Lamberton, as well as the Minnesota Institute of Sustainable Agriculture. Restore and expand small grant programs at the Department of Agriculture that assist farmers transitioning to sustainable agriculture production and marketing, and that fund on-farm sustainable agriculture research and demonstration projects conducted by Minnesota farmers.
* John supports legislation and policies that will end the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's role of being the chief advocate for agribusiness and mega-farms, and will make it the strongest advocate for family farms.


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