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Protecting the Family Farm Focus of Virtual Event

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Thursday, November 4, 2021   

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Family farms are navigating a maze of market barriers and threats from climate change.

While solutions develop, some say producers could learn a thing or two from past crises, and a leading advocate in North Dakota is helping to deliver that message.

Saturday, the Dakota Resource Council (DRC) will host its annual meeting virtually.

Sarah Vogel, attorney, author, and former North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture, who led the landmark federal case from the 1980s that protected many farms from foreclosure, will be one of the speakers. She sees similarities in past and current struggles.

In the '80s, she and other advocates learned to overcome an unfair appeals process within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

"Back then, the person that would be the hearing officer would often be the person who made the decision that was being appealed," Vogel recounted. "Well, you're not gonna get a fair hearing if your judge is also the executioner."

Thanks to reforms, she said a more neutral process exists today, giving smaller farmers a bigger voice.

The Resource Council urged policymakers to offer more incentives to producers who want to adopt conservation practices, which can better protect their land from extreme weather events. The USDA said the number of farm operations in North Dakota has fallen to 26,000, with some of the biggest declines in those with the smallest revenue.

Vogel advised farmers struggling to keep their head above water should amplify calls for patience from lenders. She pointed out leaning on landowners to make abrupt decisions creates a wave of problems seen in the '80s, such as declines in property values.

Vogel added that is not good for surrounding communities.

"Today, we see declines in the rural economy, and boarded-up Main Streets and so forth," Vogel observed. "A lot of that is connected to the loss of family farmers. "

Current farmers pointed to the need for reforms when it comes to market concentration. They said only a handful of firms control beef and other commodities. This year, the Biden administration announced a series of moves to address those concerns.

Saturday's meeting runs from 12:45 to 5:00 p.m. You do not have to be a DRC member to listen in. Those interested can e-mail the group for a Zoom link.

Disclosure: Dakota Resource Council contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, and Rural/Farming Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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