Governor Walz keynote speaker at Farmfest August 4

Deb Moldaschel
Redwood Falls Gazette

Farmfest, the popular agriculture showcase held annually at Gilfillan Estates (except last year when it was cancelled due to the pandemic) was back in person this year — Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week. One of the features of Farmfest is a daily schedule of forums addressing ag policy held in the Wick Building Farmfest Center.

Farmfest was  back last week with its vendors, forums and visitors.

The forum schedule on Wednesday, Aug. 4, included a keynote address from Governor Tim Walz. This visit by the Governor of Minnesota has been a Wednesday staple at Farmfest for years. Before making his remarks, Walz was interviewed on the Linder Farm Network noon radio show which was broadcast live from the Wick Building.

Minnesota Auto Dealers Association (MADA) President Scott Lambert was interviewed on the radio show just prior to Governor Walz. Lambert criticized the Walz Administration for its plan to impose California Car rules in Minnesota, referring to California's stricter tailpipe emissions standards and mandate for automakers to have more zero-emission (electric) vehicles on their sales lots. MADA says the rule will "impose an artificial supply mandate on the Minnesota marketplace and put Minnesota on track for an outright ban on the sale of combustible engine vehicles" (mada.org). Lambert's comments were received with a loud cheer from the audience.

When it was Gov. Walz's turn to be interviewed, Linder Farm Network broadcaster Lynn Ketelsen asked him to respond to Lambert's comments. Walz, turning his attention to the audience, said [there will be] "no choice you have to make — you can buy any car you want to — the problem is you don't have an option, there is no free market to purchase those vehicles unless your state has the clean car standards. Just to be clear, this doesn't go into effect until 2025." Walz said in states with the clean car rule there are 45 choices of vehicles as opposed to about 16 here.

Governor Tim Walz (right) was a guest on the Wednesday noon Linder Farm Network noon radio show, broadcast live from Farmfest.At left are Linder Farm Network broadcaster Lynn Ketelsen and his guest host Rod Hebrink, President and CEO of Compeer Financial.

Walz continued, "We're going to need to do all of the above, Minnesota needs to move to E-15, we need to update aging fossil fuel infrastructure. As the whole industry moves towards a de-carbonization, we need to make sure Minnesotans are on the front end of both being able to have choices and be able to profit from that. That is just simply where the market's going. GM made the decision they will only sell electric vehicles by 2035; that process will start to come across the country, this gives us an opportunity to move quicker than anyone else."

During the radio show Walz also had the opportunity to invite representatives of 4-H and FFA on stage to reveal the design of a new specialized agricultural license plate and speak about their organizations and the importance of the ag industry. The specialized license plate, which will be available in 2022, will raise funds for 4H and FFA.

While at Farmfest on Wednesday Governor Tim Walz had the opportunity to unveil a new design for a Minnesota license plate, displayed by 4-H and FFA members—the organizations that will benefit from the sale of the specialized plates.

During his keynote address, Walz spoke about the difficulties created by COVID-19 and also the way the agriculture industry continued to provide: "Producers kept producing and our folks kept making sure we were processing it, and truckers kept making sure we were moving it, and grocery stores made sure they were stocking it. So no matter how much disruption there was, nobody went hungry. And in fact that's the commitment of making sure American agriculture, Minnesota agriculture, was there."

Walz acknowledged that not everyone was happy with his decisions during the pandemic and thanked them for always letting him know when he got he wrong.

"There were a lot of things that made a lot of people angry," Walz said. "We also lost about 700,000 people — 7,000 here [Minnesota]; we had hospital workers working double shifts the entire year, we had a lot of family businesses that sacrificed, and closed, to protect others and weren't compensated they way they felt they should be and that caused great angst among the people. But the thing that I can tell you I saw time and time again, in the worst of times the spirit of folks rose up to help a family member, to help a neighbor, to help a friend."

Speaking about the mood of the country, Walz said, "I don't know why people don't trust one another as much and I can tell you now, we've come out of covid a little bit meaner. A day doesn't pass were we don't see some senseless road shooting, a day doesn't go by where somebody doesn't beat up a flight attendant, a day doesn't go by where somebody's family member and all of us are in this . . . my brother lives in Florida, you can about imagine how well we get along—that conversation though is one that we are going to have to have."

Despite these tensions he mentioned, Walz also had a message of how people continue to support each other, as he witnessed when he visited the town of Clinton in western Minnesota the day before. The elevator had burned down . . . Walz recounted how 19 rural fire departments responded, businesses across the area stepped up—the grocery store opened the doors and said to give everything they could to the firefighters and they'd figure it out later, Kwik Trip refilled people's gas without charging because people had to go while they were moving things in. Walz said the first story—a horrible fire destroyed a major local business—was followed by the deeper story of people coming together to help. He said all those people may not agree about everything, but they come together when needed.

Don't let this tear families apart, don't let this tear community's apart

Walz spoke of the response to the pandemic and his actions that were often unpopular but said he had to listen to the experts and try to do the best he could. "Don't let this tear families apart, don't let this tear community's apart."

Walz urged everyone to get vaccinated, saying "if you haven't been vaccinated, get vaccinated so you can vote against me next November."

After his talk in the Wick Building, Walz spent the afternoon walking through the Farmfest grounds speaking with vendors, ag organizations, and Farmfest visitors