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Minnesota Farmers Give Lawmakers an "Earful" on Trade and Food Labels

March 30, 2007


A dozen Minnesota farmers and ranchers are back from their annual spring "Fly-In" to Washington to talk about Ag issues. Spokesman Dennis Sjodin with the Minnesota Farmers Union says one issue on the agenda was a plan to require "country of origin labeling" (COOL) on food.

"Does it come from the United States, or does it come from another country? We think that's very important, not only to the farmers, but it's important to all the consumers."

The nation's farmers are focused on the new farm bill, which will determine agriculture policy and affect farmers and rural communities for the next five years. Sjodin emphasizes that American farmers want to provide consumers with a healthy product at a reasonable price, and that requires fair trade among nations.

"We ask for a level playing field. It's pretty near impossible to compete with some products that come out of the third world. They're good people, but we live in a different economy. And, so we do need protection. We're proud to live in our country, and we need the same protection as so many others have."

The current law can sometimes works against American producers and encourages imports, and Sjodin believes the new farm bill is a good way to address that. But, he says it has to offer incentives for new farmers.

"We've been losing farm families as they retire and the young ones go to the cities for a job. A lot of it's because of the health insurance costs, and they're forced to leave the farm. And, if we have a safety net and a half-way decent farm program where there's some security, we'll be able to keep more farmers on the farm."

Sjodin hopes a new bill, which will impact farmers, rural communities and consumers can be passed later this year. Over a hundred farmers, from around the nation, took part in this week's "fly-in."

More information can be found online at www.nfu.org.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN