Candidates lend an ear to corn growers

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association has invited all of the major party candidates for governor to visit family farms and hear about pressing issues in agriculture.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota's corn growers want to make sure the next governor is well-versed on how things are going down on the farm.

All the major party candidates in the 2018 governor's race have been invited to visit family farms across the state to learn about the corn producers' successes and challenges.

"They will spend time one on one, learning a little bit about the technology, the innovations that are happening in agriculture, and also to understand how agriculture contributes in a large part to Minnesota's economy," Amanda Bilek, Minnesota Corn Growers Association senior public policy director, told KARE.

Bilek noted that Minnesota farmers produced 1.5 billion bushels of corn in 2016, with an estimated value of $5 billion. She said access to affordable health care and managing new environmental regulations are among the top issues candidates will hear about on their visits.

Fifth generation farmer Brian Thalmann of Plato hosted Republican Keith Downey at his family's farm on Wednesday. He said it was important to make a personal connection to those who aspire to run the state.

"We've discussed for some time the disconnect that seems to be out there between what we see as the reality in agriculture, and the perception of others outside of agriculture," Brian Thalmann told KARE.

Thalmann, who also serves as vice president of Minn. Corn Growers, showed Downey a private drainage ditch that has been reclassified by the state as public waterway. The ditch currently has a 16-foot buffer strip on either side covered permanent vegetation.

But as a pubic waterway a 50-foot buffer will be required by new state regulations designed to keep silt and chemicals out of Minnesota's creeks and rivers.

Thalmann said he hopes state regulators will work with him and other farmers in similar situations.

"As a farmer, as a Minnesota corn grower member, we want to do what's right for the environment and protect our soil for future generations," Thalmann told KARE.  "The question comes in to why a 50 foot buffer?"

Brian's father Randall also talked to Downey at length about the impact of school construction bonds on real estate taxes.

"That system began in 1847, before statehood, and hasn't really changed much since."

The Thalmanns have been farming in McLeod County nearly as long, with the original homestead dating to 1877.

The family's corn crop goes entirely to an ethanol plant in Winthrop, which is owned an operated by a farmer cooperative. The Thalmanns also grow soybeans, which are dried and packaged on the farm to be sold as seed.

Rep. Erin Murphy and Congressman Tim Walz, two of the Democrats in the governor's race, have already visited corn farms in the past few weeks. Several other candidates are slated to take rural treks in the coming weeks.

The candidate visits coincide with the organization's new Minnesota Corn Grows Minnesota public awareness campaign, designed to highlight the contributions of the state's 24,000 corn growers.

© 2017 KARE-TV


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