Agribusiness Reporter David Geiger sits down with David Frederickson, a former farmer, National Farmers Union president, and Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
David Geiger: The first thing I want to ask is in this Democrat primary election season, rural America is really getting talked about, and you are a supporter of Senator Amy Klobuchar and her campaign. Could you just give me some details on why Democrats seem to be focusing on rural issues this cycle?
David Frederickson: “Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that Democrats didn’t do well two years ago with the presidential election in rural America, and certainly want to focus more attention on that. You know, I think of the country as one country. I think of the state as one state. So, sometimes I think that there’s a political advantage on the part of one party to cast the other party as not caring about rural Minnesota or rural America. Nothing could be further from the truth. We care about rural America. And I think the Democrats have stepped up and they’ve acted that way and now they’re walking the walk and talking the talk about it now.”
David Geiger: There might be even some Democrats who say, ‘Rural America is a wash, we shouldn’t even compete there.’ What do you say to those who just kind of overlook rural America in that way?
David Frederickson: “Well I think they’re wrong. I flat out think they’re wrong. They need to address, and Senator Klobuchar has been a classic example. She talks to people where they are. There are 87 counties, I know they are minor compared to the 99 in Iowa. But we have 87 counties in Minnesota and she hits every one of those counties, every year and listens. Less talk, more listening.”
David Geiger: How can Democrats engage Republicans on some of these issues, too? For, not just winning elections, but dealing with some of these issues that farmers are having troubles with?
David Frederickson: “I think that for a long time we in the public policy arena have focused on the economic aspect of agriculture, when in fact it is more than just an economic unit. It’s an environmental unit. Farmers are doing a great job for caring for the environment, they can do better in some areas. But couldn’t we all. We need to look at it as a social unit also. And when we look at what’s happening in rural America, when we look at what’s happening in rural Iowa and Minnesota. We’re seeing this out-migration. We need to create opportunity for people to go back to the farm, go back to rural Minnesota. I grew up in the country, obviously, went back home to the farm, but my little community had 350 people in it. I was a class of 24. Now we’re not going to go back to that. We’ll go back to a consolidated school district. We’ll probably go back to a health care system that’s consolidated with three or four other systems around. It changes, it evolves. But there’s no reason to walk away from it. We need to reestablish a presence in rural America.”