Climate policies, meatpacking, taxes focus of farmer town hall

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Jun. 10—Opposition to increasing the capital gains tax, the concentration of meatpacking ownership and climate change proposals by President Biden's administration were high on the list of concerns by farmers during a town hall with U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn.

"Biden's climate change (policy), the Green New Deal, is anti-agriculture. It will destroy agriculture," said Hagedorn, a two-term congressman representing the 1st Congressional District, during a phone-in town hall Wednesday.

Hagedorn said the administration wants to create carbon credits that would push farmers to do things like no till and cover crops in exchange for payments, but said most farmers who can do those things already are and said certain practices don't always work in northern climates.

He said Biden's climate change policies especially target livestock production.

"Bill Gates said we shouldn't be eating meat and should go to a plant-based diet... and have the government force it. Folks, that's what we're up against," Hagedorn said.

Tim Waibel, a Courtland farmer and president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, said proposals by the Biden administration to increase the amount of an estate that is taxed when it is passed on to the next generation is a huge issue for farmers.

"I'm 62... we're gong to need to move these assets on to the next generations," said Waibel, who was invited by Hagedorn as a guest at the town hall.

"Some of the things the Biden administration wants to do... are really going to hinder our chances to move our family farm on to the next generation."

Hagedorn credited former President Trump with passing a tax bill that virtually eliminated the so-called death tax and said raising capital gains taxes would harm rural America.

"This would just be devastating for rural communities and southern Minnesota." Hagedorn predicted Biden faces a tough time increasing the capital gains tax. "I think they will lose on this one."

A farmer calling from Springfield bemoaned the fact a large part of the meatpacking industry is owned by foreign companies and that they struggled to keep up during the COVID pandemic. Hagedorn agreed ownership is too concentrated.

"We should have more competition in the meatpacking industry," Hagedorn said. The congressman said he'd like to see farmers, through co-ops, form more smaller meatpacking businesses to diversify the industry.

Farmers noted while crop prices are currently high, they are being hit with rising input costs on their farms and uncertain if commodity prices will remain high enough to ensure profits.

Waibel, who raises corn, soybeans and hogs, said shortages and higher costs are being felt by farmers. He said fuel, fertilizer and energy costs have soared and in many cases there are delays and shortages for things like fertilizer and farm chemicals because of backlogs due to the pandemic.

He said his costs for natural gas to heat his hog barns last winter doubled.

"We're going to see a huge increase with our inputs and hopefully we can continue to keep these commodity prices up so we can make a profit," Waibel said.

Overall, farmers have been in a strong position financially for the past 18 months.

The University of Minnesota recently reported the median net farm income for southern Minnesota farmers in 2020 was $102,848, which was at the highest level since 2012.

Crop prices have soared this spring, as have hog prices.