Walz visits A.L. to discuss farm bill

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 10, 2007

By Sarah Light, staff writer

Area farmers and residents gathered Monday afternoon to participate in a forum designed to find out the local effects of the farm bill.

A forum of discussion is the best way to find out the concerns for this type of legislation, Minnesota&8217;s 1st District Congressman Tim Walz said at the forum, which was at Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services.

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His stop in Albert Lea was one of several planned throughout the district to gather input about the federal bill, which is up for reauthorization this year.

&8220;Everybody has a right to be heard,&8221; Walz said. &8220;Every point needs to be articulated.&8221;

He said he and the other House Agriculture Committee members were asked by committee Chairman Rep. Collin Peterson to gather input from their constituents in April and May to make way for the drafting of the new bill in the following months. The feedback he&8217;s gotten so far, Walz said, has amazed him.

He noted the purpose of the farm bill is to make sure there is an abundant and safe food source for Americans and to provide a safety net for farmers when needed. It affects everything from school lunches to rural infrastructure.

&8220;It&8217;s an exciting time,&8221; he said. &8220;We need to get this thing right.&8221;

During the meeting, people voiced opinions about the current bill or gave suggestions for the new one.

Walz said he will take the concerns addressed at the meetings across the district back to the committee when the time comes.

&8220;I can&8217;t bring preconceived notions,&8221; he said. &8220;I have to look at the facts.&8221;

Mark Nowak of Wells asked Walz to decipher who &8212; whether smaller or larger farms &8212; benefit most from farm programs.

&8220;What I&8217;m asking you and your committee to do is to truly get in there and analyze the numbers,&8221; Nowak said.

Brad Redlin of St. Paul addressed the conservation aspect of the bill and said he hopes the commitments that have already been made in that regard stay in place.

Waseca farm owner Larry Muff said the next farm bill needs to find an equality in commodity prices, particularly for soybeans, so that farmers such as himself can be on a level playing field with farmers of corn and other products.

Attendees and Walz also discussed alternative and renewable energy production and some of the related concerns affecting farms.

Walz said his job as a congressman is not to go into a situation with a preconceived notion; instead, he hopes to represent every person in the district and vote in a manner that reflects his constituents.

Attendees also heard a brief message from Minnesota State Rep. Robin Brown, who was present.