Individual people can help make a difference for agriculture, Paul Lanoue said. They just need a chance to be heard, and Lanoue, a rural Marshall resident, had such a chance earlier this month. He was among the participants in the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation's Young Farmers and Ranchers trip to meet with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12-16.
"It was a great opportunity," Lanoue said, both for networking and talking to members of Congress about ag issues.
Trip participants met with U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and Reps. Collin Peterson, Erik Paulsen, Chip Cravaack, John Kline and Michele Bachmann.
Paul Lanoue, at left, was one of the young farmers and ranchers who met with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. Lanoue and his brother Brad, at right, posed for a picture near the Capitol dome.
It wasn't Lanoue's first time on a Young Farmers and Ranchers trip, so it did make the experience a little easier, he said.
"I think I felt more comfortable talking with the legislators and sharing stories," Lanoue said. "One thing I learned was that the elected officials truly respected the opinions of the Farm Bureau because it represents all agricultural groups."
Participants on the trip discussed a range of issues, including estate taxes, the Renewable Fuels Standard and the need to pass a five-year farm bill.
The farm bill ended up not passing, but Lanoue said participants wanted to make sure legislators knew how important the issue was to American farmers.
"We knew the chances were slim," Lanoue said. "Hopefully, they can still get something done."
Lanoue said participants also discussed the effects of unnecessary regulations on agriculture. One of the things they asked for was a change in the language of the Clean Water Act to limit it to navigable bodies of water. Otherwise, the Environmental Protection Agency would regulate every bit of water on a farm, he said. "That doesn't make any sense."
The trip also included visits to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the United Kingdom Embassy, which Lanoue said were more for informational purposes.
"It was interesting to see the global reach" of agriculture in the U.S., he said.
There was also some time for participants to see the sights in the capital. Lanoue met up with his brother Brad.
"We didn't know we were both going to be there," he said.
While the trip to Washington was an opportunity to speak out on agricultural issues, Lanoue said not all of his trip highlights were serious.
"When I was talking with Sen. Al Franken, I invited him to our farm to have an opportunity to learn about agriculture. I told him he might have the chance to drive a tractor, and he said he didn't know how he'd handle that much power," Lanoue said. "I thought that was funny to hear from a U.S. senator."