Minnesota State University, Mankato’s We Have Ag Colloquium series finished Monday with the last event titled Hot Topics in Food Agriculture and the Environment.
This event was from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Ostrander Auditorium of the Centennial Student Union. Each session was a moderated panel discussion with an introduction.
Each one had between two and five speakers who spoke for five-eight minutes each. After that there was an open discussion where questions could be asked and closing remarks were made for 20-30 minutes.
The first panelist was Dave Preisler who talked about trade and exports along with the impact of policies on food and agriculture. Priesler is the Chief Executive officer or the MN Pork Board. He also is a part of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association in the International Marketing Committee.
The second panelist was Dr. Paul F. Mackie who talked on rural mental health and the federal farm bill. Mackie is a professor of social work at MNSU. He was appointed to U.S. Senator Tina Smith’s new Ag Working Group, which was created to ensure that Minnesota voices are heard when it comes to the upcoming debate on the Federal Farm Bill.
“Events like [these] give students, faculty and staff an opportunity to learn more about a particular subject, to learn more about what is going on campus,” Mackie said. “Just the expansion of one’s own knowledge is worth it. It also generates intelligent honest debate around these subjects.”
This bill includes farm policy and its impact of rural producers, businesses and communities. It mentions crop insurance, research, conservation, energy, rural development, rural health and nutrition making it an important discussion for Minnesotans to be a part of.
“I have been doing research on rural behavioral health for essentially my entire career,” Mackie said. “I have also been working on trying to find ways to encourage federal support for rural behavioral health and social services through the farm bill.”
The third panelist was Dr. Jennifer Londgren who discussed the impact of the opioid epidemic in rural communities. She is an assistant professor and coordinator of alcohol and drug studies at MNSU.
“I grew up on a dairy farm in Michigan. Rural communities have less and less access to physical and mental health services,” Mackie said. “It is something that I think we all should be caring about. Rural America still represent about 15 percent of the U.S. population.”
The fourth panelist, Loren Molenaar, talked about sustainable and responsible farming. Molenaar is a sixth generation farmer, president of the Kandiyohi County Farm Bureau, a member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, and has degrees in farm operation management and agribusiness from Ridgewater College in Willmar, Minn.
The last panelist, Karen Kasper of Kasper Dairy, discussed bold career choices as a dairy farmer. She also talked about what it was like being the “Country Woman of the Year” finalist.