FARMFEST 2011 forum "Regulation ... The Biggest Threat to Production Agriculture?" gave audience members a glimpse of how regulations will impact the growth of Minnesota's ag sector.
Moderated by Don Wick of Red River Farm Network, panel members included Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian, National Pork Producers Council; Warren Formo, executive director, Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Coalition; Matt Wohlman, assistant commissioner,Minnesota Department of Agriculture; Don Scheilfelbein, president, Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association; Bill Crawford, president, Minnesota Pork Board; and Dave Pfarr, Minnesota Corn Growers Association board member.
Wagstrom started the discussion with a briefing on PAMPTA (Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009) — a bill that would ban all non-therapeutic uses for antibiotics in feed. FDA has the authority to take antibiotics off the market, but there is not enough scientific evidence that growth hormones are harmful, so instead it issued Guidance 209, essentially saying it “doesn't feel right about using growth hormones” and encourages scaling back on their use. This position is still unpopular w PAMPTA supporters, who believe in banning all antibiotic use in livestock.
Wohlman pointed to EPA's farm dust crack down and a proposal to treat spilled milk like an oil slick as other examples of excessive regulations stifling agriculture progress. Then he reminded the audience that not all regulations are bad, but rather the bad ones are more well-known.
"The regulations that are very unpopular get a lot of attention, so much that they drown out news of good regulations, that are made quietly in the background," said Wohlman.
Scheifelbein expressed how unhappy Minnesota farmers are with the current regulatory climate.
"I want to tell you [regulations’] threat [to agriculture] is real," said Scheifelbein. "When I travel around and ask people — and I do this everywhere I go — ‘what is the biggest concern you have as you look forward to the well being of your operation? Is it corn prices, production costs, transition for the family members?' It’s regulation fear. The number one question I get is 'what are the regulations going to be like?'"
Click here for video of the forum's opening remarks.
Panelists continued with questions from the audience including how local, state and federal regulatory agencies work together, how agriculture can be more proactive in the rule making process and what role social media should play in changing ag policy and public perception.