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SPECIAL REPORT: Trouble in the Fields

Ross Becker
Updated: November 18, 2019 10:31 PM
Created: November 18, 2019 10:27 PM

(ABC 6 NEWS) - Farmers in southeastern Minnesota this year are facing a perfect storm of problems and, according to some farm experts, many may not make it.  

Farm bankruptcies are up nationwide and Minnesota is no different.  This year with the trade war with China depressing commodity prices, the battle over ethanol, tight financing from the banks and the wet, fall weather, farmers are wondering when they can catch a break.  

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Dan Miller is a Fillmore County farmer who also works as an instructor and consultant at Riverland Community College.  He believes about 20 percent of southeastern Minnesota farms are in a financial crisis.  He says they are in debt and were hoping that this year would be the year that got them back on track, but he says that will not happen.  Corn prices are down.  Soybean prices are down.  Farming costs are higher than they were even two years ago.  

Farmer Scott Winslow says he is one of the lucky ones.  He and his family have been working this land near Fountain for six generations.  He says he probably won't make any money this year, but he hopes the trade deal with China get done or the administration helps famers open up new markets in India and Vietnam.   He said, "you know we have been thrown a lot of curveballs and you just have to go on".

Many of the farmers here voted for President Trump and remain Trump supporters, but Dan Miller says patience is wearing thin.   He says, "a lot of rural Minnesota has been in favor of the president and his policies, however as prices continue to stay depressed it's become more of a challenger to be profitable and I think patience is diminishing just a little bit".   Winlsow says if he had the chance to walk into the Oval Office and confront the President he would tell him the truth.  "I would just tell him, you know, that it's rough out here."  

Even if they don't make any money this year, Winslow says he will come back out in the spring and plant again, and try again.  But some can't start over.  The debt can't be met and the money is running out.  The land will be sold or leased and someone else will try to make money with it.  

It is a crucial year on the farms of southeastern Minnesota.  Back in the 1980's during the wheat embargo with Russia, the state lost 10,000 farms.  Some say, this year could see the same result.


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