Farm Bureau works toward farmer-friendly policies

Published 11:20 am Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Freeborn County Farm Bureau is an organization made up of farmers who focus on educating people in urban areas about agriculture and supporting policies that will help farmers.

“The Farm Bureau interacts with local legislators to support issues and policies they’re implementing that would be a benefit to farmers,” Alex Pirkl said.

Pirkl is the Freeborn County Farm Bureau board president. All the members of the board are active farmers. He originally got involved with the Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers program.

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“It’s for young farmers to get together and meet other young farmers and interact,” Pirkl said.

The group is for farmers age 18 to 35. One activity they do is to have a discussion competition.

“You get together to discuss issues and come up with resolutions,” Pirkl said.

The Farm Bureau also educates people living in urban areas about how agriculture affects everyone.

“Many counties have farm safety programs where they have a trailer from the state office that’s loaded with all kinds of safety displays,” Pirkl said.

The displays are interactive and mostly educate about safety. Some topics are tractor roll-overs and grain bin safety. They plan to have some displays at the Freeborn County Fair this year.

“We do agriculture in the classroom where a farmer will go to grade school classes and talk about farming and answer questions,” Pirkl said.

Pirkl would also like to see high school students go to FarmAmerica Rural Interpretive Center in Waseca.

“It’s a farm education center,” Pirkl said. “It shows the history of farming and they have small plots of land where they work the ground with horses.”

Pirkl also said that if any schools are interested in having an agriculture safety day that they could bring the trailer and come talk to students. He would also like to get more students out of the schools to come see farm equipment so they can demonstrate farm safety.

As well as being advocates for larger farms the Farm Bureau supports small farms and other kinds of farming including organic farms.

“We are going to be at the farmers market this year handing out reusable shopping bags,” Pirkl said. “We want to meet smaller producers, and we’re happy to have them as members.”

He said some people think the Farm Bureau only supports large farms, but he wants them to know that’s not true.

“We’re a very comprehensive farm organization,” Pirkl said. “We don’t focus on any one commodity.”

The Farm Bureau will support all commodities from soybean farmers to pork producers.

“We support all agriculture in general,” Pirkl said.

The Farm Bureau also supports alternative energy sources like use of ethanol, biodiesel and wind energy.

“It’s important we have these alternatives,” Pirkl said.

The Farm Bureau supports laws that mandate increases in use of biodiesel fuel and well as raising the amounts of ethanol in gasoline.

“We’re not professional lobbyists we’re just farmers making sure projects get done,” Pirkl said. “I talk to our representatives regularly about issues.”

Another issue the Farm Bureau is concerned about are cuts to the Department of Agriculture’s budget.

“We don’t feel the Department of Agriculture should have its budget cut because of the importance of food safety,” Pirkl said.

Another concern of the Farm Bureau is the amount of pollutants in waterways. The organization deals with the total maximum daily load ratings that calculate the amount of pollution a waterbody can receive and still meet water standards.

“We’re trying to determine the maximum amount of pollutants a river could hold and what would be an acceptable level,” Pirkl said. “We also don’t know how much is manmade and naturally occurring.”

The Farm Bureau also supports humane treatment of livestock and opening up more foreign markets to trade.

“These are all issues that concern all types of farmers,” Pirkl said.