Farm bill changes questioned by local residents

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 30, 2003

An agriculture outreach director, who is an aide to Sen. Mark Dayton, R-Minn., visited Austin and Albert Lea Wednesday to discuss implementation of the new farm bill and other agricultural matters.

The visits were set in part to answer questions and to help others understand the components of the bill, which was passed last May.

"It is a complex bill," said Dayton aide Gary Wertish. Only 20 to 30 percent of farmers have signed up and in part because of the complexity of it. Under the bill farmers must signed up by first of April. In order to be able to establish a new corn base, farmers must sign up by that date.

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"There are different options in which farms can sign up," Wertish said.

With all options, farmers must present proof of loan deficiency payments or assembly sheets, which indicate the number of produced loads. Wertish explained that it is difficult for some of the farmers to collect these receipts that go back to 1998.

"Gary is a farmer himself and he was honest saying that he could not promise anything would be done," said Dean Lukes, a local farmer.

Lukes, who attended with two other local farmers, said hopefully the bill can be simplified so it can be easier to understand and more fair.

John Brimwell, a local farmer and director of the Mower Soil and Water Conservation District, attended the meeting because of the conservation soil issues in the bill.

"Our county is one with the highest conservation practice in the state," Brimwell explained.

The SWCD works with waterways to prevent soil erosions, wildlife habitats and is active with filter strips.

"We assist landowners with technical and engineering information for the conservation provisions of the farm programs and in any way we can," Brimwell said.

For information in on the farm bill, people can call the toll free help-line number at (888) 224-9043.

Roxana Orellana can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at