Candidates for Minnesota Governor prepare for Farmfest Forum Wednesday

What issues do farmers and greater Minnesota face heading into election season?

The WCCO Morning News with Dave Lee
August 07, 2018 - 8:51 am
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This Wednesday, WCCO’s Dave Lee and Blois Olson will be in Redwood Falls for the Farmfest Gubernatorial Forum. Candidate’s will dicuss farming and farm policy along with issues important to greater Minnesota.  The Forum will include GOP Candidates Jeff Johnson and Tim Pawlenty, and DFL candidates Erin Murphy, Lori Swanson and Tim Walz.

WCCO will air the forum live Wednesday starting at 10:30.  You can also listen online at wccoradio.com.  

While none of the candidates is a farmer, each will be prepared to talk about current issues facing farmers in Minnesota.

Paul M. Vaaler is the John and Bruce Mooty Chair in Law & Business and the U of M’s Carlson School of Management.  He talked to WCCO’s Dave Lee Tuesday morning about the upcoming forum. Vaaler laid out three major issues for candidates that greater Minnesota is thinking about as we get ready for the Primary August 14th and the Election in November.

Tariffs

If good weather holds up, then the US will produce more than 4 billion bushels of soybeans in 2018.  Minnesota farmers will contribute more than 300 million of those bushels.  Meanwhile, the bushel price of soybeans has dropped from about $10.70 last April to $8.70 in early August.  It's clear that President Trump's trade war China and other key trading partners is to blame.  Tariffs and other new trade barriers to exports are costing Minnesota farmers at least $2/bushel or about $600 million in farm revenue.  

How should farmers react?  What will you do as governor to help?

Healthcare

In the 2010s, healthcare in rural Minnesota took two steps forward and then one-step back. From 2011-2015 uninsured rates among rural Minnesotans dropped from 12% (2011) to 5% (in 2015).  That was a bigger drop than in the Twin Cities.  Since then, though, the uninsured rate in rural Minnesota has edged up to about 6.3% at the end of 2017. Individual insurance (not business-linked and not state-linked insurance) rates have jumped and rates of individually insured rural Minnesotans has seen big declines.  This is also during a period of strong economic growth in Minnesota.  

What will you do as governor to help farmers, and other rural Minnesotans reverse this trend? 

Immigration

The state unemployment rate is about 3.1%.  We've had a shortage of workers, especially in rural Minnesota where the population has been contracting and aging faster than in the Twin Cities.  However, there are exceptions.  The Star Tribune's Lee Schafer recently wrote about one exception in Nobles County.  

It's the city of Worthington where the population grew from 10,000 in 1990 to more than 13,000 today.  Factories and related business are humming. Local civic leaders there told Schafer that the key is migrants.  More than a third of city is made up of migrants from Latin America, Africa and other parts of the developing world. They do menial jobs and skilled professional work. They labor in factories and as small business entrepreneurs. They are younger, so they send children to public schools, take them to the public libraries, and attend civic ceremonies celebrating the Fourth of July and other holidays.  They seek out and receive all sorts of public health and welfare services, sometimes when they can't afford to pay their full cost. 
They also work hard, pay taxes, and (literally) grow a town and related county economy when rural Minnesota more generally is shrinking.  

What will you do as governor to help other parts of rural Minnesota get a shot at attracting more migrants to renew their towns and counties, like Worthington and Nobles County are doing?

You’ll hear questions such as this and others on WCCO Wednesday as we bring you the Morning News with Dave Lee live from Farmfest from 6:00-9:00, and then our Gubernatorial Forum starting at 10:30.