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Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau, Published August 06 2010

Pawlenty says feds need to leave farmers alone

MORGAN, Minn. – The federal government is sticking its nose into farmers’ business and hurting Minnesota agriculture in the process, Tim Pawlenty said Thursday after delivering his final FarmFest speech as governor.

If he were in charge of the federal government, the potential presidential candidate said, that would stop.

Pawlenty also said government should continue to play a role in biofuel development, such as ethanol and biodiesel.

The Republican governor railed against bureaucratic measures that hurt farmers, especially ones issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I would instruct the EPA to stand down on some of their initiatives that have not been authorized or backed by Congress,” he said.

Kevin Papp, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, said that before an agency slaps more regulations on farmers, they should be based on science and the government should consider economic consequences.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., earlier in the week said such proposed rules make him want to find a way to chop the EPA budget in half. He is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Much of Pawlenty’s half-hour speech was a review of what his administration has done for agriculture, particularly encouraging the expansion of corn-based ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel.

Talking to reporters later, Pawlenty said that as ethanol payments are ending, a decade after they began, direct subsidies to farmers that helped launch the industry no longer are needed. He said the current ones should continue, to fulfill the state’s promise to farmers, but now the government needs to concentrate on things such as funding research.

Federal money helped fund research that led to the nuclear power industry, Pawlenty said, and that is an appropriate use of state and federal money as biofuels enter their next generation.

FarmFest, held in a field in southwestern Minnesota, annually attracts thousands of farmers to look over the latest equipment and other agriculture developments.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.