Crookston’s Olson says she hopes contingent’s visit to Washington, D.C. made a difference

    Fresh off her trip to the National Farmers Union Fall Legislative Fly-In in Washington, D.C. LouAnne Olson of Crookston says the NFU is focusing strongly on a trio of crucial issues: Passing a strong farm bill, protecting farmers from trade war fallout, and transitioning to a homegrown, renewable energy future.

    Minnesota’s NFU delegation met with numerous lawmakers, including the offices of Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Tina Smith and Heidi Heitkamp, as well as Rep. Collin Peterson. They also met with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, where the Trump administration’s current trade policy and tariffs were a hot topic. “(Perdue) said he realizes it’s difficult for farmers, but we’re just going to have to make it through this,” Olson tells the Times. “Of course, what the Farmers Union is saying is that farmers can’t make it through this.”

    For now, the NFU is hoping conferees from the House and Senate pass a strong farm bill. “At least that would give the bankers some assurance of stability as farmers move forward,” Olson said.

    A “farmer’s daughter,” retired social worker and lifelong supporter of the Farmers Union who now rents out ag land for production purposes, Olson said she expressed a general interest in attending last month’s NFU fly-in event and was told “we’ll get back to you.” She was subsequently contacted and, to her delight, was asked to accompany the Minnesota contingent.

    Lawmakers from ag states told the NFU group that their “hands are kind of tied” on the tariff matter because “Trump is handling” the tariffs. She said some of what she heard was frustrating and discouraging, but if a good farm bill could be passed, that at least would be a start.

    “Times are real tough for farmers; Farmers Union is about family farms and family farmers,” Olson said. “They are the people that drive rural communities and rural economics and the businesses of these communities rely on these people.

    “When farms become too big they start to bypass local communities when it comes to getting the things they need to run their operation,” Olson continued. “It’s a long game. Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, said that. He said farming and this whole process, it’s a long game. I think that’s the best way to put it right now. I hope we made a difference when we were there.”