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Ron Kind talks farm bill with local farmers

A group of local farmers met with Ron Kind Wednesday, May 2. Shown from left are: (front) Ron Kind (D-Wis), Juliet Tomkins, Sylvia Borgos-Toftness, Kurt Buetow, (middle) Jay Esch, Sara Morrison, Prescott Bergh; (back) Dan Richardson, Faye Jones, Maureen Ash, Stu Malanathy, and Phil Verges. Photo by Ben Anderson.

After finishing a listening session Wednesday, May 2, Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis) stopped over at Juliet Tomkins' home, a farm in the town of Martell, to talk with a group of 10-15 local farmers about the Farm Bill.

"I organized this as an outcome of having visited Kind's office last November," said Tomkins.

She worked with Brad Faff, Kind's deputy chief of staff, to set up the meeting.

The group included a wide range of farmers who produce crops, dairy, and beef. They discussed many topics related to the United States Farm Bill, but Tomkins shared some highlights.


One of the important aspects discussed was the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The program offers money to help farmers increase sustainability efforts.

Tomkins said it's an excellent program that has been in existence for around eight years.

"It's been slated to be eliminated in this current farm bill, and Representative Kind has been a stalwart supporter of that (CSP)," Tomkins said. "Many of us in our group had used it, and he felt it's really an important and essential part of the farm bill."

Crop insurance program

Tomkins said another important topic was crop insurance. Farmers can take out insurance policies that will pay out to protect them in the case of crop failure.

According to Tomkins, some tweaking of the program could provide cost savings. She said the current rate of return on crop insurance is 14.5 percent.

She said farmers would like that return changed to 8.9 percent. This would not affect what the farmers would get back in case of a crop failure, but would mean less money would go to the insurance companies.

Tomkins added that it would save $5 billion over the next 10 years. The 2014 Farm Bill also prohibited the United States Department of Agriculture from adjusting the standard reinsurance agreement (SRA) for crop insurance.

"That means ... the USDA can't negotiate a better deal for us," Tomkins said. "Which seems absolutely outrageous to me."

They hope their voices are heard

The farmers in the group hope their voices were heard, Tomkins said. They're hoping that Kind will be able to make changes to the Farm Bill that would be beneficial to them.

"There's some question if (the Farm Bill) will even be passed this year, given all that's going on in Washington," Tomkins said. "If it is passed, we want to be sure that our voices are heard on these important issues and the changes are made that we feel are necessary."

The group will continue to communicate with their elected representatives.

"Having an ear in DC with Representative Kind is incredibly valuable," she said. Kind has "a good listening ear, and an actor, someone who will really take our messages to heart and push hard to advocate for them. That's pretty unusual. It's pretty wonderful."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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