The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 12, 2012

At ag discussion, Franken bends ears

Sen. Al Franken talked animal rights with hog producers, ethanol with corn growers and the farm bill with everyone.

His positions largely satisfied the agricultural interests sitting in Kevin and Julie Paap’s rural Vernon Center barn Friday. Franken was invited by Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, to talk about agriculture. The group recently named Franken a “Friend of the Farm Bureau.”

The lack of a farm bill generates the most interest, but it’s the issue over which Franken has the least control. The Senate passed the bill, which hasn’t gone to a vote in the House of Representatives.

Franken said it has the votes to pass, but Republican leaders aren’t giving it a hearing because it doesn’t have a majority of Republican votes.

“What I’m hearing is not good news,” Franken said.

Even if the bill doesn’t pass, certain provisions, such as crop insurance, would continue, said Kent Thiesse, vice president of MinnStar Bank. But some others, such as a measure supporting international exports, would end.

On most of the agricultural issues, Franken’s positions were popular.

He opposed a Department of Labor regulation that would have forbid 15-year-olds from working with any battery-powered tool.

He called the rule “a perfect case of one of these bone-headed bureaucratic initiatives.”

Likewise, he sided with farmers on the issue of horse slaughter.

“I’ve made some enemies from my old friends,” he said of the famous actors and actresses who asked him not to support it. (He later said they were still friends, though they disagreed on this issue.)

“I guess a horse to them is a dog, or something,” he said.

On animal rights, Franken said his visit a few years ago to the Courtland-area hog farm of Reuben and Judy Bode helped convince him that the practice of individually crating baby pigs was humane. The alternative, grouping larger and smaller pigs, was more inhumane because the pigs end up fighting for food, he said.

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