Action Alert

Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!

The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.

TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.

Please take five minutes and complete the survey. To find out more about these trade agreements, go to

Dramatic increase continues in Farmer-Lender Mediations

Source: FLAG Matters

Published January 25, 2011

With all the talk of bumper crops in Minnesota this past harvest season, we hoped there might be some good news on the trend of ballooning bad debt among Minnesota's family farmers. But the news is discouraging. The Farmer-Lender Mediation Program of University of Minnesota Extension works with farmers and lenders to settle debt. As its 2010 fiscal year ended this fall, the program reported that its volume of bad debt among Minnesota farmers for the year nearly doubled over 2009, from $322 million to $624 million -- approaching 1987 levels during the nation's farm credit crisis.

For anyone wondering if the financial well-being of family farmers affects their rural communities, there is a note in the mediation service's annual report: In 2009, the service mediated $15.9 million in farmers' troubled debt to Minnesota's "main street and small businesses." In 2010, farmers' troubled debt to Minnesota's "main street and small businesses" grew 1100 percent to $177 million.

The Extension service reported, "Many well-managed operations are experiencing financial stress due to dramatic volatility in feed costs and market values." So, while some grain farmers may be doing well, farmers feeding livestock have faced soaring feed costs, pushing their debt well beyond what their operations can manage. And dairy farmers continue to be in crisis, with the double whammy of high feed costs and low prices. This is the third consecutive year of record increases in debt mediations for the program.