You can help deepen and expand our collective electoral power.
Commit to Caucus on Tuesday, February 25th!
Questions? Contact Megan Jekot at email@example.com.
You can help deepen and expand our collective electoral power.
Commit to Caucus on Tuesday, February 25th!
Questions? Contact Megan Jekot at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether we are white, black or brown, have been in the United States for 10 generations, or are a newcomer here, we all want to leave future generations a healthy and beautiful Minnesota.
We all share and depend upon this Earth, and this election season we cannot let divisive and harmful rhetoric from certain politicians and lobbyists deliberately distract us with fear mongering and keep voters from paying attention to what really matters.
The “Greater Than Fear” campaign calls out against racist language that harms hard-working Minnesotans and future generations. We know that by treating one another as we would like to be treated and working side-by-side, we are far more powerful.
Let’s join together and vote Greater than Fear on November 6.
Land Stewardship Action Fund leaders like Jennifer are already speaking out:
“My name is Jennifer and I live in Brainerd, Minnesota. I am #GreaterthanFear. I love Minnesota because people take care of each other. Right now there are people trying to divide us, trying to distract us with their fear mongering. Trying to make us afraid of immigrants and refugees and anyone who is different.
Well, I refuse to be afraid. I’m not afraid of people who look and live differently than I do. I am not afraid of people who walk across the desert in search of a better life for their babies.
Some people blame immigrants for our hard times.
I blame greed. I blame corporate CEOs who make millions while their workers barely make it at all. I love Minnesota. I love the people here. We care about each other, and we all want the similar things for our families: health, happiness, education, safety.
This November, I’m voting for candidates who offer hope for our communities because I know that Minnesotans are greater than fear.”
Check out this Greater Than Fear video and remember to vote Greater Than Fear Nov. 6. For more information on the Greater Than Fear campaign, e-mail Jonathan Maurer-Jones at email@example.com.
This is an independent expenditure prepared and paid for by Land Stewardship Action Fund, 821 E 35th St., #200, Minneapolis, MN
55407. It is not coordinated with or approved by any candidate nor is any candidate responsible for it.
It is becoming clearer that the chances of the U.S. Congress passing a new Farm Bill by the Sept. 30 deadline are slim. The main roadblock is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the expanded work requirements called for in the House version. The House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill are currently being debated in a Congressional conference committee. The principle conferees tasked with reconciling the House and Senate versions are split on the policy issue of whether or not to expand the work requirements for people who apply for and obtain this assistance to help feed their families and themselves.
This week, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue used his bully pulpit in front of National Farmers Union members gathered in D.C. to stump for the House version of SNAP. As reported by the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN), Secretary Perdue cast SNAP recipients as people who ought to be subject to stricter work requirements, characterizing them as saying, “I don’t really want a job, I just want you to take care of me.”
I can imagine myself in that audience: rural people like me, raised in a culture valuing a strong work ethic and independence. Many of these people are facing dire economic times and maybe looking for the leader of USDA to say something about the prevailing crisis in a farm economy that fails men and women who work hard and have little to show for it at the end of the season. What made me angry was that Secretary Perdue seemed to lean into this situation, touch on these values and use them to gain support for expanded work requirements for people using SNAP by saying, in effect, “let them work harder.”
The truth, according to USDA, is that SNAP has work requirements as well as time limits on benefits, and it supports work and a path out of the particular situation that led people to apply for SNAP in the first place. And the truth is that SNAP cuts would hurt rural people at a disproportionately high rate. As the Daily Yonder reports, from 2012 to 2016, about 15 percent of rural households participated in SNAP. That’s at least 2 percentage points higher than the rate for metropolitan residents. Nearly 90 percent of counties with a SNAP usage rate of 30 percent or greater are rural. Bottom line: the SNAP changes the Agriculture Secretary thinks are such a good idea will be bad news for farmers and other rural residents.
Maybe even more disheartening in Secretary Perdue’s comments about SNAP was his statement that, “…the generosity and compassion of the American people has a limit.” That was an additional judgement cast at people in our community who find themselves in a situation where they reach out and ask for help through SNAP. Here is a more grounded perspective on SNAP articulated by other farmers I serve with on the Land Stewardship Project’s Federal Policy Committee: “We as farmers need vibrant communities where no one is left behind. We all depend on each other, and just as we believe our public policy should create a safety net for family farmers, it should also provide a strong safety net for all people so they can feed their families. When all families can eat and succeed in our communities, we as farmers succeed.”
That is more like the vision I would expect to hear from my Secretary of Agriculture. I call on the principle Farm Bill conferees to reject the divisive approach taken by Secretary Perdue, and deliver an agriculture law that maintains a strong and secure SNAP.
Tom Nuessmeier farms in Le Sueur county, Minn., and is a federal policy organizer with the Land Stewardship Project.
By Amy Bacigalupo
Recent revelations that at least 2,300 migrant children have been separated from their parents under U.S. President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy highlights an ugly fact: this country’s immigration policies are inhumane, divisive and unsustainable, and they have been for a very long time. The atrocity of tearing young children from their parents is a further step in the wrong direction, a step that must be stopped and never repeated.
The Land Stewardship Project’s mission is to foster an ethic of stewardship for farmland, promote sustainable agriculture and develop healthy communities. We care about people and the land. We are striving to build communities where farmers care for the land and water and produce food that is healthy and available to everyone. We want a future where families and children are valued and where immigrant families trying to build a better future for themselves and their families are not threatened by racist and inhumane policy that divides families, communities and the country. A broken, inhumane immigration system that allows children to be separated from their families is not only unjust, it is highly immoral.
LSP recently released “A Vision for Rural Minnesota.” This document was developed from input given by hundreds of rural Land Stewardship Project members during the fall of 2017. One core value included in A Vision for Rural Minnesota is: “Every person has value that can’t be earned or taken away.” A “zero tolerance” policy that separates children from their families and isolates them in detention centers does not value human life.
Although President Trump has signed an executive order ending, for now, the separation of families at the border, this situation highlights the fact that migrants are treated as expendable “inputs” that help keep corporations wealthy and powerful enough to control all aspects of our society, including rural communities. For example, our current immigration policy enables large-scale corporate-backed factory farms to suppress large portions of the migrant workforce, driving down wages not only for them, but for others living and working in rural communities. Factory farm owners think they are above the law, in some cases stealing wages owed to workers, all while threatening these workers with deportation if they complain. Because of their ability to exploit a vulnerable workforce, factory farms are profitable and powerful enough to consolidate land, dominate markets and influence public policy—all to the detriment of small- and medium-sized farms and the communities that rely on them.
In a sense, the current debate over migrant families is one more example of how corporate control over our economy, politics and government undermines the financial, social and environmental fabric of rural communities, all while promising short-term “economic gains.” It’s not just factory farms that benefit. As a result of documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, it was recently revealed that several rural communities are being targeted for establishment of Wall Street backed for-profit immigration detention centers. At least two of those communities are in Minnesota—Pine Island in the southeastern part of the state and Appleton in western Minnesota.
Private companies that operate such facilities earn big money and benefit from Wall Street investors. The business of housing, transporting and watching over migrant children detained at the southwest border is a billion-dollar business. Because of the President’s “zero tolerance” policy, that business has the potential to get a whole lot bigger. The vast profits from these businesses don’t go to rural communities but rather to the shareholders, fitting with the overall corporate model of extracting wealth from rural areas at the expense of the environment, human health and community well-being.
Our rural communities need to be revitalized with the kind of economic activity—farms, small businesses, public institutions—that generate long-term wealth while maintaining the integrity of those people who are doing the real work of producing goods and services. Utilizing the misery of migrants, and their children, as sources of income, whether through cheap labor or as detainees, is not part of the vision for rural Minnesota the Land Stewardship Project’s members hold in high regard.
We must call on our public officials to put in place policies that not only protect rural communities from the damage caused by corporate-controlled “economic development,” but support the kind of sustainable business development that can inoculate these communities against opening the door to activities that rely on treating land and people as cheap, throw-away commodities. With that in mind, LSP will continue to work for the kinds of policies that, whether it be on the local, state or national level, treat every person with value and dignity.
Land Stewardship Project organizer Amy Bacigalupo farms in western Minnesota.
By Mark Schultz
The people of Minnesota are beginning to consider what they would like the future of the state to look like in the context of the fall gubernatorial elections. Will they elect Minnesota’s first woman governor? Go “Back to the Future” with a former governor? Select a leader in agriculture policy? Or a county commissioner from the Twin Cities metropolitan area?
But the key question is not who—it is what. What is needed, and how will it be done? Land Stewardship Project members are in the thick of these discussions.
The work done on “A Vision for Rural Minnesota,” along with the Land Stewardship Project’s participation with 21 other people’s organizations in the statewide “Our Minnesota Future” effort, challenges us to think more seriously and more boldly about what is needed, and about how we the people can make that happen.
What is most clear to me is that LSP has an opportunity, and I believe an obligation, to lift up, discuss, and work for bold and effective solutions that are of the scale and scope necessary to address the serious challenges we face in Minnesota. Half-measures and short ends of the stick won’t cut it.
So, in order to stimulate more thought, action and dialogue, here are some of my thoughts. These are not a prescription, nor are they LSP’s adopted agenda, but they are being shared as an opportunity for us to raise the bar. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a chance to lift up our own eyes to see what is really needed and what bold solutions are possible.
There is no doubt we are in the midst of an economic farm crisis. In agriculture, corporate control of the economy and of government benefits large-scale industrial agriculture and denies small- and mid-sized farmers access to profitable markets, affordable credit, affordable healthcare and land. Let’s be clear—lots of public resources go to support market development, tax abatement or other benefits for industrial agriculture and the largest corporate-backed operations. But most Minnesota farmers are locked out of those markets and there is very little public support for developing the profitable markets they need.
A recent example of this wholesale sell-out to corporate agriculture is the legislative testimony of Dr. Marin Bozic of the University of Minnesota this spring. He comfortably noted that there is no hope for 80 percent of Minnesota’s dairy farms, and then offered as an example of hope the multi-state conglomerate Riverview LLP with 34,500 cows in confinement in Minnesota. As LSP member Bill McMillin noted in a letter-to-the-editor, professor Bozic’s vision would mean we only need about a dozen more mega-operations to produce milk in Minnesota.
We don’t need continued public subsidies and support for these huge industrial operations, with their multi-million-gallon manure lagoons, absentee investors, low-wage jobs and an economic structure that sucks resources out of our communities. What Minnesota’s next governor needs to do is redirect resources away from corporate control and focus them on the success of everyday Minnesotans, like small- and mid-sized farms and businesses. They also need to focus on making healthy food available to all through local and regional systems. That’s the way to a healthy economy and society, and a healthy land.
For example, how about Minnesota’s new governor working with the people directly affected by this corporate control of agriculture to develop substantial markets for Minnesota’s moderate-sized farms that are producing milk, livestock, fruit and vegetables? The state could engage seriously with public institutions that provide food to people—schools, nursing homes, day care centers and hospitals—and provide them with the resources to purchase that food from farms in our region at a much larger scale than is being done currently.
This will mean divesting from excessive support for the corporate-controlled system and investing instead in the farmers, children and elderly people of the state. It’s called good government—putting the people first. The first step the new governor should take is to appoint a commissioner and assistant commissioners of agriculture who support this and for whom this is the priority.
Did you know that the State of Minnesota currently provides corporate-backed factory farms a tax abatement for huge multi-million gallon “lagoons” filled with liquid manure? That’s right, the public is basically subsidizing structures that are ticking time bombs of pollution, and which are likely to cost the public many millions of dollars for clean-up once they are abandoned by their investors. Minnesota should remove that public subsidy and establish a tax on the largest manure lagoons/pits. We could then take the revenue generated by such a tax and invest it in promoting and supporting livestock production systems—such as managed rotational grazing and deep-straw swine set-ups—that have proven to be a net positive for our communities and the land.
Many young people want to farm—people coming from existing Minnesota farms, from urban/suburban communities, and from other countries. They want to contribute to society and our economy by growing healthful food, caring for the land, and investing the wealth they generate in their own farms and in their communities in a way that supports schools, local businesses and community events.
When the wealth generated by agriculture runs through small- and mid-sized family farms, our communities prosper—we know this very clearly from our own history. Minnesota needs to enact policies that result in affordable access to land for beginning farmers, and address the historic structural racism that denies land to people of color. That means affordable loans, grants for start-up or early scale-up, market development by the state, support for food sovereignty efforts by native communities, and improved tax credits to landowners selling or renting to beginning farmers.
To build a healthy economy in which prosperity is widely shared across the state, people need credit. While community banks and credit unions are good partners, more is needed. Minnesota’s next governor could work to establish a “state bank,” such as the one that has successfully operated in North Dakota for 99 years. Why should the assets of the state—annual tax revenues, fees, etc.—be held by the big banks, which just use it to invest in the extension of corporate control in our economy? Rather, we should put those public assets in the state’s own bank, and invest them in people: education loans that are affordable, small business loans, farm loans that support small- and mid-sized family farms. That’s smart fiscal policy, and shifts resources away from corporate control.
Address the Healthcare Crisis
One issue that extends across all of our communities is the current healthcare crisis, and addressing it with real solutions should be a top priority for our next governor.
I recently read an interesting book called, Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right. Among other policies, the book examined healthcare policy in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. It laid out the significant fiscal savings and huge health benefits of publicly-run, publicly-funded universal health insurance systems. Among other things, these systems provide excellent coverage and care for rural people, something which many rural Minnesotans lack right now. Minnesotans get no help from the current Legislature, which wrongly pretends that cutting back on affordable coverage while literally handing out hundreds of millions of dollars to insurance corporations is the answer. The new governor should address the real pain and impoverishment that comes with a health system controlled for profit by major corporations.
As many LSP members have witnessed, there is a lot of excitement over the role building healthy soil in our fields and pastures can play in creating resilient, profitable, environmentally-beneficial farms. Building soil health isn’t just good for farmers—it also provides public goods for everyone in the form of cleaner water, nutrient-dense food, and sequestered greenhouse gases.
I’m extremely interested in what people think can be done in Minnesota through a governor’s leadership and positive state policy to assist thousands of farmers attempting to build soil health on their farms. What incentives can be provided, or obstacles cleared, or public research undertaken, to assist farmers building soil? How can the resources of our public institutions be directed to promote the regeneration of the soil?
This is not an exhaustive list, of course. It’s meant to stir discussion, to cause us to lift our sights as to what is needed and what is possible. I encourage LSP’s members and supporters to think about what changes you would like to see in your communities and on the landscape, and what bold steps the next governor can take to bring such changes about. Let us know what you think—attend an LSP meeting, give me a call, or contact one of our organizers. Let others know, too—through your social media, or a letter-to-the-editor. Participate in a public hearing or candidates’ forum. The bottom line: one way or the other, make your bold voice heard.
Mark Schultz is the executive director of the Land Stewardship Project.
Prepared and paid for by the Land Stewardship Action Fund, 821 E. 35th Street #200 Minneapolis, MN 55407. It is not coordinated with or approved by any candidate nor is any candidate responsible for it.
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821 E. 35th Street #200
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