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Thankful Thursday – Legislative Assistants

Legislative Assistants

A huge shout out and thank you to all the Legislative Assistants out there!

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to head to Washington DC for a few days of Farm Bureau meetings, and a day on Capitol Hill. I love when we are able to visit our elected officials. I have learned so much about leadership, and how to work with those you may not agree with politically.

One of the things that has been repeated with every visit, is the importance of building a relationship with the Legislative Assistants. When I see Senator Amy Klobuchar’s LA, Brian Werner, I try to get a selfie or a photo with him if his day is not crazy busy. He is a native of my county, a connection that has led to a recognition when we see each other either in DC, or when he is traveling to Minnesota for his job. In the photo above, I was able to greet him at a hearing about the Farm Bill in his home town.

Legislative Assistants are human, and we need to treat them that way.

While we were waiting for our meeting with Senator Klobuchar, we had the chance to ask questions of her office staff. They were busy answering phones, and reading the emails that were coming in. They explained the process of sorting emails to the appropriate file (not the deleted folder), and how every call is logged. Even with the volume of calls they receive, the two staffers were very friendly on the phone. Ever feel like calling up your senator or representative and ripping them a new one? Don’t. The people on the other end of the line are human, and they don’t like being yelled at any more than you do. Ripping someone a new one is also a poor reflection on you or the organization you represent. The Golden Rule applies to congressional staffers, and our elected officials.

Meeting with a Legislative Assistant is a good thing

Sometimes schedules are so crazy that we cannot meet with our Congressmen or Senators. Having the ability to sit down with their LA’s is a good thing. They are the ones who will research, document, and make recommendations to their boss about whatever it is that you are wanting them to work on. Drop them a business card on your way out of the meeting, and follow up with a thank you email as soon as you are able. I’m still working on mine from two weeks ago, but I will get them done!

 

I’m thankful that we have talented, smart, and energetic individuals who are working as our Legislative Assistants. Whether they are working for a boss in DC, or your home state…in the office on the Hill, or in a field office, we need to treat them all with a bit of kindness, and show them a little appreciation now and then.

Feeling Grateful

grateful for what I am

I have many things to be grateful for…

This past September didn’t go exactly how any of us predicted it would. We were sure that I would be spending about two weeks in Kentucky after Lydia was born, but there were also many unknowns. I had a bit of time to contemplate the month as I drove home from Pikeville on the 27th and 28th – about 2 days worth of time – and I kept coming up with the same theme. I have so many things to be grateful for.

Anna, Doug, and Lydia

grateful for the Meyer family

If it weren’t for Lydia’s arrival on September 1st, I wouldn’t have gone to Kentucky in the first place. I was so excited when they asked me early on in the pregnancy to spend some time with them after their bundle arrived. I am grateful that they didn’t kick me out after spending 24 days with them. A new baby is stressful enough when you are first time parents, but Anna and Doug also have her multiple sclerosis and his medical school schedule to deal with. We were a bit concerned when Anna had to be hospitalized for a few days due to an infection, but at the same time, I was thankful that they put Anna on the labor and delivery floor so Doug could bring Lydia to spend the days as a family of three. Anna’s infection triggered a MS relapse, so I was asked to stay a little longer to help care for Anna while Doug’s mom was there to take care of Lydia. Two moms in the house for a week, and we all survived! It was good for Karen and I to get to know each other better, and I liked that it helped me to understand Doug a little better as well. It wasn’t always easy being patient with each other, but looking back on our time together, I am grateful that I was able to stay and help as long as I did.

Jonathan

I know it’s pretty sappy, but I have to say, I am so grateful for Jonathan. He was so understanding and encouraging when I was homesick. I left home on September 1st, and arrived back home on September 28th. That is the longest we have been apart from each other in the 28 years we have been married. Jonathan and Laura did come to spend a couple of days in Pikeville during my time there, but most of that time was spent oohing and ahhing over our granddaughter.

After I arrived home, Jonathan has been kind enough to let me ease back in to “real life”. There are many things I need to catch up on before harvest gets super busy, and I am thankful that he has been so patient with me.

Farm Bureau

I am grateful to be part of an organization that understands the importance of family. While I was in Kentucky, I missed a few county annual meetings, a state board meeting, and an event with the American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. I felt bad about missing the meetings and event, but I was assured that family is first. There are many organizations that are not as forgiving when it comes to family events. That is another reason why I am thankful to be a member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

Family and Friends

I have a pretty awesome family, and an amazing group of friends. I am so grateful for the prayers offered when we asked for them…and for those offered when we didn’t ask. I also received texts, notes, and messages that seemed to come at just the right time. Thank you to the family and friends who lift my spirits constantly.

Living in a different region

grateful for seeing God's beauty

This is a view off of the front deck at Doug and Anna’s house during a rain storm. They live in a hollow (pronounced “holler”) in the hills. You can see the road winding up the road. They basically live on the side of an Appalachian mountain. I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, and I’ve lived on the prairie of Southwestern Minnesota for 28 years. After awhile, the mountains seemed to close in on me…but at the same time, the views were breathtaking. I am grateful for the opportunity to live in a different region of the country for a month. I fell in love with the Food City grocery store in Pikeville, and even brought home some southern versions of foods we like. I’m pretty sure that if I wasn’t bringing home some boxes of Anna’s, I would have tried to bring home many more groceries from Food City! Anna and Doug have some pretty awesome friends as well. I had the privilege of meeting some of their medical school friends this trip, and am thankful they let this “granny” hang out with them. (Yes, I was totally called granny at one of Lydia’s pediatric appointments…I don’t have a bun like granny in Beverly Hillbillies, or the granny in the Tweety cartoons…yet.)

Feeling grateful…

My trip to Kentucky contained a roller coaster of emotions…heck, I cried all the way through it on my way home after leaving sweet Lydia…but the overwhelming emotion is one of gratitude. Thank you for all of the thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, and friendship.  It’s good to be home.

Farm to Fork Class Comes to the Farm

Last November, thanks to the Minnesota Farm Bureau’s Speak for Yourself program, I had the opportunity to share my farm story with the Farm to Fork class at Tracy High School. At the conclusion of my presentation, I invited the class to come visit our farm, since we are less than 30 miles from their school. On April 27th, they took us up on the offer.

The day dawned cold and windy with 100% chance of rain. We had tractors and machinery parked in the shop and the machine shed so we wouldn’t have to stand outside. I was very thankful that Jonathan and Adam took the time to clean the shop so we could meet in there…and they even turned the in-floor heat on again. In April in Minnesota, it’s not unusual to go from heat to air conditioning to heat in the span of a week.

We started out in the shop where we had our planter tractor parked with the corn and soybean planter attached. We talked about how the planter works, and how we use GPS technology to plant in a straight line, and how we can adjust the depth the seeds are planted according to the recommendations for that seed. Many of the students have helped plant gardens, so they understand the importance of planting the seeds at a proper depth. We also talked about how we use computers to plant just the right number of seeds in an acre, and how we can adjust that depending on soil types. The three monitors we have in our planter tractor were running so the kids could see what kind of information we use when we’re planting. They were able to climb up into the tractor if they wanted.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork tractor experience

While in the shop, we also talked about the records we keep and the process we go through to become a certified organic farm. We had our Organic Systems Plan, Clean Truck Affidavits, and Yield Maps & Soil Tests books that they could page through.

Next we walked over to the machine shed. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining yet. The machine shed was chilly, but at least we were out of the wind! Jonathan talked about the field cultivator and the tractor that pulls it, and how we can change the tracks on that tractor to narrow ones that will fit in between our 22 inch rows if we need to. The kids were standing around the pallets of seed that were waiting to be delivered to our seed customers, but they didn’t seem to mind.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork track tractor

The rotary hoe is parked to the left of the tractor in the photo, so we walked over and talked about why and how we use it. Then we turned and talked about the combine. It was a good time to talk about farm safety as well. The kids could see the size of the machine up close, and realize that this isn’t really meant to be on the road. I hope the message of giving the combine room in the back, and only passing when it is safe to pass is a message that sticks! The kids had the chance to climb up into the combine cab and up on the back to see what it looks like. I think they liked this part!

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Combine

We viewed the flame weeder from the door of the machine shed, since it was starting to rain at this point. Back in the shop, we gathered around our newest project, a cultivator. This cultivator has a camera that “sees” the crop and adjusts the cultivator’s position accordingly. I’ll explain that a bit more in another post.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork students

The kids were able to put their hands in a bucket of wheat seed, and we talked about how the seed we plant becomes the food they eat. Sometimes King Arthur Flour buys our wheat through one of our grain buyers. We also have sold corn and soybeans to dairy and poultry farms to supply feed for their animals. To help connect the farm to fork concept, I baked some of my favorite scones for our guests using ingredients that could affect our farm when they are purchased by consumers. The King Arthur Flour, and Organic Valley dairy products are two of our potential markets. The organic sugar and egg may not directly affect us, but show that those choices are available to consumers in southwest Minnesota. The ground vanilla beans are there because I love using ground vanilla beans in my baking, even though it is considered a premium ingredient.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Ingredients

The students asked some great questions, and know they have someone they can ask when something comes up that they want to understand a bit more. One of the reasons why I love to share my farm story with groups, and why I love hosting groups on our farm is that connection I now have with all those I visited with.

It is important to Jonathan and I that we show consumers the impact that farmers and agriculture have on them. We talked about how Jonathan and I are giving consumers a choice by farming organically, and that we don’t mind what their families choose, since agriculture is filled with farmers and farm families like ours. No matter what they purchase in the grocery store, it started on a farm.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Scones and Organic Valley milk

To me, there is no better way to cap off a morning on the farm than by eating a vanilla bean scone with a carton of Organic Valley Chocolate Milk served from the workbench. Thanks to the students for being awesome, and thank you to Mrs Campbell and Ms Noll for making both visits possible!

Some might think it is scary to host a Farm to Fork or Family and Consumer Sciences class at their farm. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t have to be an expert on everything. Most of the kids just want the chance to meet a farmer and get a little hands on feel for what it takes for the food they eat to get to their table. If you are interested in hosting classes, contact your Farm Bureau and see if they have programs that will help you connect with teachers.

 

A huge shout out to my friend, Emily Zweber of Zweber Farms for supplying the chocolate milk…and to Jonathan for cleaning up the shop, getting equipment parked inside, and talking about farming to the Farm to Fork class…and to our hired dude, Adam, for cleaning the shop with Jonathan, and picking up after us and turning off equipment and turning out lights when we were done.

The Impact of a Unified Voice

Speaking with a Unified Voice - Farmers to Washington

 

Agriculture is under attack by the Environmental Protection Agency, individual states, and federal judges. It is time to get involved, and make your voice heard. What is the most effective way to get your message across? By joining a farm organization.

This past March, I had the opportunity to visit Washington DC with the Minnesota Farm Bureau. This was my 4th trip to DC with Farm Bureau, but my first trip as a member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Board of Directors. I came away with three things I think everyone involved in agriculture should know.

Every farmer should belong to a farm organization

I know, I know. We’re all really busy, and it’s tough to take on one more thing. But what if that one more thing makes your job easier in the long run? For example, fourteen Minnesota Farm Bureau members traveled to Washington DC together in March. That is a small fraction of our membership. We were speaking on behalf of all Minnesota Farm Bureau members that week. When we met with our Congressmen and Senators, they knew we are speaking with a unified voice for all of our members.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been to the Minnesota State Capitol for our Day on the Hill visits. It’s another trip that I love, and it’s an easy one day event for us. The messages we bring to our elected officials, whether state or national, are those that came from our members in the policy development and voting delegate sessions that happen every year. Your voice in your county matters.

Politics may not be your thing, but it affects everything

When I first got involved in Farm Bureau, politics weren’t my thing. I had kids to worry about, I was taking on a few more farm responsibilities, and just didn’t think my opinions mattered anyway. The more I got involved with Farm Bureau, the more I realized how much of our livelihood depended on our elected officials. I started paying attention, embraced the opportunities to attend legislative 101 type sessions at our Leadership Conferences, and learned how the political process works. Then, Jonathan and I won a trip to Washington DC with the Young Farmers & Ranchers group, where we learned how powerful the Farm Bureau voice can be. I went in to that trip pretty wide-eyed, and came home fired up…in a good way. I gained a new respect for those who work hard at getting our message in front of the House and Senate every day. I know I couldn’t do it!

Every farmer should go to Washington DC at least twice

Why go twice? Isn’t once enough…a been there done that kind of thing? As I mentioned above, my first trip to Washington DC was pretty much a wide eyed experience where I was taking in so much information, and seeing for the first time how politics affects agriculture at the national level, that I really didn’t feel like I made much of an impact. When we went on our second trip, I was much more comfortable about speaking up in our meetings, and felt that I was making a difference. In March, one of our Congressmen expressed how he appreciated how Farm Bureau speaks with a unified voice, since they represent all sectors of agriculture. He mentioned how we are a lot like Congress in that we have to learn how to take all of the different voices and come together in agreement on our policies. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. The group on this spring’s trip was very diverse, which really brought home our Congressman’s point. We had beef, dairy, pig, conventional, and organic farmers in our group speaking as one.

Whether it is the American Farm Bureau addressing the issues surrounding the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule, or the Minnesota Farm Bureau addressing Governor Dayton’s buffer strip campaign, our elected officials take note of our message, whether or not they vote the way we would like, at least they know exactly where we stand. That is the impact of a unified voice.

Why You Need to Get Involved

Getting Involved Ag Menu

How many times have you heard someone say they just don’t want to get involved, or that they belong to a farm organization so “they” will speak up for them? Maybe they feel like it’s no use…they are just one person, and their vote or opinion won’t count anyway, so they give up. Frustrating, isn’t it?

This past week, I attended the first ever Governor’s Pheasant Summit. Our area in Minnesota is pretty popular for pheasant hunting, so they met at the college that is a few miles from my place. Even though I live close to the venue, I hadn’t heard about the Summit until our Farm Bureau Director of Public Policy mentioned that he would be there. I was starting to feel as if I was being prepped for the menu.

I went online to check out the Summit details, and to go through the background information. It was clearly spelled out that this was supposed to be a discussion between hunters, farmers, policy makers, conservationists, DNR, and other stakeholders and government officials. What I saw when I walked in the door was very different. There were many state agency people – DNR, SWCD, MN DOT, BWSR, NRCS – but very few farmers. Besides the few farmers that I saw, there was a small group of cattlemen, a small group of bee keepers. With the format of the event, it was evident that the small number of farmers, ranchers, and bee keepers wouldn’t have a lot of clout…even though we represented the largest private landowners, and would be the most affected by whatever decisions came out of the Summit.

There are some lessons here.

1. We need to show up. When there is an open call for stakeholders, we need to respond. We cannot wait for “them” to represent us. “They” may represent you, but when it comes to events like the Summit, I have the same amount of votes as everyone else in the room. Every voice counts. Let me repeat that…Every voice counts.

2. We need to engage. Don’t like how things are going? We cannot afford to just walk away and hope someone else speaks up for us. In any of the areas mentioned in the graphic above, there are or have been opportunities to engage. Not sure how? Join a farm organization. It could be Farm Bureau, State Cattlemen, Farm Bureau, Corn Growers, Farm Bureau, Soybean Growers, Farm Bureau, Pork Producers, Farm Bureau, Bee Keepers, Farm Bureau…  Jonathan and I are members of more than one group, giving us opportunities to engage through those different groups.  Many of these groups also arrange group trips to the State Capitol and Washington DC giving you the ability to engage with your elected officials, while helping you to speak effectively to them.

3. We need to be persistent. After the Pheasant Summit concluded, I approached the Commissioner of the DNR to ask if a farmer would be a member of the group that hammers out the action plan that came out of the Summit. In our private conversation, he agreed that we need to be at the table, and we need to be able to work together. The 5 areas outlined are too broad to let the government agencies decide on the action plan without agriculture at the table. We need to be persistent and willing to be the squeaky wheel every once in a while to ensure that agriculture has a voice. We can’t take one private conversation and be satisfied that we will be heard.

4. We need to work together. There are times when every farmer and rancher needs to work together, regardless of size, methods, or farm type. A good example is the issue with the Environmental Protection Agency and their Waters of the United States rule that would essentially give them jurisdiction over all the water in the United States. Through an organized effort, and the participation of farmers and ranchers all over the United States, we are getting the attention of our elected officials, and they are responding. The Pheasant Summit is a state wide issue that affects every farmer and rancher, regardless of size or method. We need to be willing to set aside our differences for the good of the whole, there is strength in numbers.

Where do we go from here?

Get involved. It’s okay to start small. Join your county Farm Bureau. You don’t have to sit on the county board to take advantage of the opportunities for members.  If you are not comfortable in front of people, at least respond to the Action Alerts when they are sent out. Participate in your Day on the Hill. Your county Farm Bureau and commodity organizations make it very easy to show up, and be effective. Head to Washington DC with Farm Bureau. You will learn a ton about Farm Bureau, the legislative process, and you will be making a difference by your very presence. Attend events like the Pheasant Summit. We need the agriculture voices to show up and help shape the recommendations that will affect us. You don’t have to stand up and address the crowds, or give a speech, or be on TV to make a difference. Just get involved at the level you are comfortable with. Help agriculture be at the table, and not on the menu.

30 Things I Love: Agriculture Organizations

Agriculture organizations

I love all the opportunities we have to become involved with various agriculture organizations. We are currently members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Corn Growers, Minnesota Soybean Growers, and the Minnesota Pork Producers. All of these organizations have a direct connection to what we raise on our farm.

You may wonder what the point is in being a member of an ag organization. After all, you’re just an average farmer with the nose to the grindstone, and no time to be on a board. That’s the beauty of these organizations. You can be as active as you like. If you don’t have time to sit on a board, you don’t have to. Your membership is still important.

The Minnesota Farm Bureau President, Kevin Paap, often says, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Being a member of an agriculture organization helps to keep us at the table, and not on it. Your membership dollars are used to help us know how and what to say to our legislators when we visit them at the State Capitol, or in Washington DC. We are strong when we speak with a unified voice! Those that wish to become more vocal have opportunities to learn communication and leadership skills by attending various events. You don’t have to be a board member to participate in those opportunities. That said, if you choose to become a board member of any county or regional agriculture organization, you will be welcomed!

I am amazed at how much my leadership and speaking skills have developed over the last 14 years. Jonathan and I joined Farm Bureau in July 2000. We were encouraged to compete in the Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award contest, which we did. The third time was the charm, when Jonathan won in 2004. The American Farm Bureau Annual Convention was in Hawaii that year, so I had to get on my very first airplane when Jonathan went to compete nationally. We didn’t make it into the top 10, but I remember thinking about how cool the convention was, and that I wanted to go to another one. I joined the county Farm Bureau board around that time, and for the past 6 years, I served as President. In that time, I had other opportunities to serve on state committees, and I became a member of the Speak for Yourself program, where we were taught how to tell our farming story to the general public and continue to learn how to engage the non-farm consumers. I was also encouraged to apply for the position of representing a general farm organization on the Organic Advisory Task Force, which has lead to being appointed chair this term.  Last winter, I felt the nudge to run for our district’s seat on the MN Farm Bureau Board of Directors, and was elected at our November annual meeting. 26 years ago, when I first moved to the farm from my home in the Twin Cities, I never dreamed I would have the passion for agriculture that I do…or that I would have the voice that I do. I am so thankful that I swallowed the nervousness and went to my first county board meeting.

If you are on the fence, I encourage you to join a county organization. The grassroots nature of many of these organizations really does give the power to the farmer, and gives you a voice even when you cannot physically be at your state capitol or in Washington DC.  That is why I love agriculture organizations!

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage

Day 6: NASCAR

Day 7: Black Velvet for Photography

Day 8: Strong Coffee and Strong Hairspray

Day 9: Peacefulness

Day 10: Winter’s First Snow

Day 11: Freedom

Day 12: Dairy

Day 13: Jonathan

Day 14: Coffee

Day 15: Seasons

Day 16: Scones

Day 17: #AgNerds

Day 18: Playing in the Dirt

Day 19: Friends

Day 20: My Church Choir Family

Day 21: OxyClean

Day 22: Small Town Celebrations

Day 23: Clouds

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Day 25: Sisters

Day 26: My Minivan

Day 27: My Daughters

Day 28: Viktoria

Day 29: Agriculture Organizations

Click here to go to Holly Spangler’s blog, and see the link for other 30 Day Challenge Bloggers

30 Things I Love: The Ability to Vote

Vote

It’s election day in the United States. It’s a day many look forward to, not only because this means the end of political ads on television and radio, but it is a chance for them to be a participant in deciding the future of our country.

I love that I have the ability to vote. I am thankful that we don’t need an armed escort or the military called in to guard those who dare to vote. I am thankful that, as a woman, I can walk into a polling place and cast my vote without being arrested. I am thankful for the men and women in uniform who put their necks on the line every day to preserve my freedom to vote.

I hear it said many times that “my vote doesn’t count”. In Minnesota, we’ve had a few races in the last 10 years that came down to just a few votes. Your vote DOES count! If you are on the fence about whether or not to vote, think Nike…Just Do It!

Your Vote Today is Not the End of the Story

As my friend, Michael, who blogs at Minnesota Farmer, said, “The most important thing you can do is visiting elected officials after they take office.  There you can influence the future.”

We often complain that our elected officials are only working within party lines, but are we any better? How can we expect our representatives to work with us, if we refuse to work with them just because we may not have voted for them? It’s time to put our words into action! Building trust and a mutual respect is valuable when you need to work with your senators or representatives on agricultural issues. Yes, need. Take the example of writing to our congressmen about the proposed EPA rule. If I have blasted my congressman all over social media, and have been insulting to him to his face, do you think he would take my request seriously when I ask him to vote against the EPA’s rule? If I were him, I wouldn’t!

Jonathan and I are members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau. We have had many opportunities to travel to the State Capitol, and to Washington DC to discuss agricultural issues with our senators and representatives. Farm Bureau has a great reputation of working with all parties to achieve their goal. I love Farm Bureau’s model! I really believe we can disagree on issues, and be respectful at the same time.

Are you ready to put into action your beliefs? Get out and vote today, then follow your elected officials on social media, visit them in their offices, be available to answer questions they may have, and become a trusted voice of agriculture.

 

Day  1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Other blogs in the 30 Day Blog Challenge

 

A Day to Count Blessings

Carolyn's Baby Photo

My baby photo. Liked the spiked hair then, too!

I love birthdays. As a kid, birthdays meant cake, presents, and being made to feel special for a whole day. As a grown up, birthdays are still fun, but I like to take time to count my blessings as well.

A year ago, Jonathan and I were taking foster parent classes. It was a 12 week commitment, right in the middle of harvest. We made it work, and we became certified in March. At the beginning of October, we received our first long term placement. This little guy has turned our lives upside down, but I feel grateful for the opportunity to love and nurture him until he is able to go back home, or until he is adopted. Days may get stressful, and I may feel like I am failing at parenting, but I know God has a bigger plan at work here.

Jonathan and I were able to do a lot of traveling this year, and I am thankful for all of the people we were able to hang out with. We had an awesome time in San Antonio, TX at the American Farm Bureau Annual meeting, where I was able to meet some of my online friends in person for the first time. We are so happy that we took the opportunity to get to know some of our Minnesota Young Farmer and Rancher contestants better while hanging out and discussing golf one evening. These awesome farmers and farm professionals are why I have faith that agriculture in Minnesota will be in good hands for years to come.

Following our stop in San Antonio, we went a bit further south to visit our migrant workers and their families. We have two families that come up and work for us every year. One family has worked for close to 10 summers for us. They have become more than just employees. They are also our friends. We loved visiting them and seeing where they come from. I think we could all use a little of their attitudes toward hospitality. We were so warmly welcomed!

In August, I attended the AgChat Foundation’s Cultivate and Connect conference in Austin, TX. You can read about my 10 Takeaways by clicking on the link. I was pretty much starstruck the entire time. So many people I wanted to meet in real life…and so many people I hadn’t met online yet…the conference was filled with awesome people! I have been so blessed by the friendships I have made with agvocates all over the world (I now have some Aussie friends! Lol) I still think about the keynote addresses, the breakout sessions, the networking…let’s just say, I can’t wait to go again!

Probably the biggest blessing this year was an addition to our family…in the form of my son-in-law, Doug. I have been praying for him since Anna was little, and God totally delivered. I could not ask for a more compassionate, Godly man for Anna. Their wedding day was perfect, and their ceremony was filled with so much love. Most of all, I am happy to see Anna so happy.

Yes, this year has been filled with lots of good things. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but the blessings smoothed out those bumps. 🙂

Here’s looking to year number 4(cough)!

tonymillerphotography

The “new” Olson family. We welcomed Doug into the family in June

 

Why Minnesotans Should Be Wary of the EPA’s Rule

I live in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes. Or, more precisely, 11,842 lakes that are 10 acres or larger, 6564 natural streams and rivers, and 10.6 million acres of wetlands. (source: MN DNR) Water is a big deal in Minnesota, not only for the impact on agriculture, but also as a major source of recreation and revenue from those activities. Our outdoor industry is so important, that we have a state law in effect that schools cannot start until after Labor Day so that families can enjoy one more weekend at their favorite resort or lake. There are a few exceptions, but the residents of those districts are split on whether or not it’s a good thing to start school before the last long weekend of the summer.
When I first heard about the proposed rule that the Environmental Protection Agency filed earlier this year, I was undecided as to whether or not it was a good or bad thing. The more I read, the more I became concerned. The rule is supposed to provide clarification to what some of the terminology of the Clean Water Act (CWA) means. The rule doesn’t change the fact that waters will be assessed, monitored, or cleaned up. There is no language in the rule that changes the basic CWA. What does change is who is in charge of enforcing the assessing, monitoring, and cleaning up. I have a problem with that.
It is important to know what the definition is of paragraph (s)(1) through (4) says, since it is referenced in many parts of the rule.
“(s) For purposes of all sections of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq. and its implementing
regulations, subject to the exclusions in paragraph (t) of this section, the term “waters of the United
States” means:
(1) All waters which are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate
or foreign commerce, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide;
(2) All interstate waters, including interstate wetlands;
(3) The territorial seas;
(4) All impoundments of waters identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) and (5) of this section”

The rule says that ditches are exempt if they meet these criteria:
“(3) Ditches that are excavated wholly in uplands, drain only uplands, and have less than perennial flow.
(4) Ditches that do not contribute flow, either directly or through another water, to a water identified in
paragraphs (s)(1) through (4) of this section.” According to this definition, the exempted ditches as listed are not really exempted…because all ditches in Minnesota run “either directly or through another water, to a water identified in paragraph(s)(1) through (4) of this section.” This means that the EPA will basically have control of every single ditch in Minnesota….agricultural, municipal, wherever. We have so many lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands, that it is pretty much impossible for any ditch to qualify for this exemption.

The rule goes on to try to define what “significant nexus” means. This is where I think it really gets worrisome for Minnesotans.
“The term significant nexus means that a water, including wetlands, either alone or in combination with other similarly situated waters in the region (i.e., the watershed that drains to the nearest water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) of this section), significantly affects the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) of this section. For an effect to be significant, it must be more than speculative or insubstantial. Other waters, including wetlands, are similarly situated when they perform similar functions and are located sufficiently close together or sufficiently close to a “water of the United States” so that they can be evaluated as a single landscape unit with regard to their effect on the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) of this section.”

Remembering back to Mr. Emmon’s Earth Science class at Jackson Junior High in Champlin, and the lessons on how water moves makes this definition of significant nexus pretty inclusive of all water in Minnesota. When you look at a watershed map from your county Soil and Water Conservation District, or the Natural Resources Conservation Service you will see that all of the waters in Minnesota flow to the Red River of the North, the Rainy River, Great Lakes basin, Mississippi River, or Missouri River. All of those basins are interstate waters. This would mean that the EPA would have control of all water in Minnesota.

So, why do I have a problem with that? Minnesota has done a great job of implementing the parts of the Clean Water Act that the states were given the authority over. The Clean Water Council is made up of stakeholders representing all areas affected by the rules of the CWA, and those interested in the environment. Who better to help oversee waters in Minnesota, than those who are directly affected by, and care about, the waters in Minnesota? If the EPA’s Rule doesn’t change the fact that the waters are going to be cleaned up where necessary, what is the point of the Rule? It looks more like a control issue than a clarification issue to me. This is why I think we need to #DitchtheRule.

Join me in contacting the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers asking them to withdraw the proposed rule. A rule that won’t change which waters are regulated, but one that shifts authority away from Minnesotans and into the hands of Washington D.C. bureaucrats.

(Click here to read the EPA’s proposed rule)
(Click here for more information about Farm Bureau’s Ditch the Rule)
(Click here for the Minnesota Farm Bureau Clean Water Act links)

CarolynCares Flooding

A large puddle in our farm yard

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Same location, 22 hours later. This could be under EPA jurisdiction, due to the watershed this puddle was in.

Same location, 22 hours later. This water went into the Redwood River Watershed, which ultimately leads to the Mississippi River.

 

Kindness…

People are getting testy. Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe I’m just letting it get to me a little more. I’m not sure.

This past week, the new Farm Bill was finally passed by both the House and the Senate, and was signed into law by President Obama. Many in agriculture are breathing a sigh of relief…and many are whining and venting on social media. The Farm Bill is not perfect. There are areas where we still need to work with our elected officials to make changes as stand alone legislation. The key is, we need to WORK WITH our elected officials. Calling them names, shaming them on social media, and calling their offices in moments of anger is NOT working with them.

When kids at school were giving me a bad time, my mom used to tell me to kill them with kindness. There are even references in the Bible that talk about being kind to your enemies. Sweet words soothe crying babies, help comfort broken hearts, and bring calming to those who may be acting out in frustration. I have seen it work many times. I have also seen people shrink away and become defensive when angry words are hurled at them. The power of words is amazing.

I may not agree with, or even really like some of my elected officials, but if I want to have a working relationship with them, I must treat them with kindness and respect. That includes communications with them on social media, in emails, or in person.  I truly believe that burning bridges is one of the worst things I can do as an advocate for agriculture. Badgering public officials on something I don’t agree with is not going to make them jump to my aid if I need them to side with me on another issue.

The same could be said for belittling those who may not agree with your farming style, or your food choices. If we want our consumers to know that we have the safest, most affordable food supply in the world, why are we constantly fighting between ourselves in public? We are our own worst enemies. We spend so much time accusing the “other side” of using junk science, or emotion to justify their opinions, that we have failed to show just how good our farms are. We have failed to show the reasons why we raise our animals the way we do. We have failed to show how many families are out working every day so we all have plenty to eat. Just think of how awesome it would be if we stood up for one another, or promoted agriculture as a whole. Chipotle and Panera’s ad campaigns wouldn’t have a (chicken) leg to stand on.  Let’s not burn bridges between farmers. Farmers that need to come together to make changes in immigration reform, or mCOOL, or township ordinances…

The quote that I put on the photo below fit so well with how I was feeling this week watching my social media feeds. Instead of being frustrated or angry, I am going to focus on being kind. Maybe, just maybe, it will catch on! Want to join me?

CarolynCares Kindness

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