Paynesville couples attend Rally for Rural America

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 4/5/00.

Curt, Carol, and Cyril Two Paynesville couples traveled by bus with the Stearns County delegation to take part in the Rally for Rural America in Washington, D.C., March 18-23.

The purpose of the rally was to make lawmakers aware of the plight farmers face in dealing with low prices. "Every legislator from the midwest was invited to attend the rally," said Cyril Spanier, who attended with his wife, Joanne. "The rally was supported by 99 U.S. Senators."

Pictured, from left to right, are Curt Wegner, Carol Wegner, and Cyril Spanier.

U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone and Archbishop Harry Flynn both spoke to the Minnesota delegation at the send-off before they left Minnesota. Wellstone was also on hand to greet them upon their arrival in Washington D.C.

About 75 miles from Washington, the seven buses filled with farmers from Minnesota met and caravaned into town," Spanier said.

On their first day in Washington, D.C., an interfaith prayer service was held at the Church of Reformation.

A town hall meeting was held under a large tent near the reflecting pool by the Wasington Monumenton their second day at the Capitol. On their third day in Washington, they met with Minnesota legislators, and attended the Rally for Rural America on the front steps of the Capitol.

"Farmers all over the world have poor price. It isn't just our problem," said Curt Wegner, who attended the rally with his wife, Carol. "When farmers feel the pinch, agri-businesses feel the pinch as well. We need farm programs which will remedy the low prices."

Wegner would like to see a farm bill which stabilizes prices. "We need a target price. If the market price is above the target, then the grain in the loan reserve is released to stabilize the prices. If the prices are below, then the government makes up the difference," Wegner explained.

"Farmers can't plant unlimited acres without affecting the market prices," he added. "We can't plan for a drought, because nobody knows what the weather will do."

Wegner said it was a shame that the only time farmers get better prices is when the crops are poor in Illinois or when South America doesn't have a crop. "We are all in this together. We need a national program to take care of the highs and lows, the bumps in the road," he added.

Spanier agreed that farm prices are a concern of many farmers, not just Minnesota farmers.

"Hopefully, we made an impression on the Congressmen. They need to come up with an adequate farm bill for all farmers. Poor farm prices has been an on-going thing for 30 years. Farmers are not being treated fairly, It is worse now than 30 years ago." Wegner said.

Wegner and Spanier are both semi-retired and don't need to worry about prices as much as their sons who are taking over the farms. "A lot of young people want to farm but their dads have had to tell them to find something different to do," Wegner said.

"We've been fortunate. We have had three good crop years. We have extra bushels to sell. We can sell at lower prices and still have an adequate income. However, there isn't much left over for new machinery," Wegner said.

Spanier felt the rally was educational in many respects. "Congressmen need to stick together. I hope we don't lose too many farmers and businesses before a solution is found," he said.

Carol Wegner felt the rally was well worth attending. "The interfaith service was very inspirational and was a good start to the rally," she said.

The farmers were served a "farmer's share lunch." The farmer's share of the $8 meal was 39 cents. The lunch breakdown was: sliced top round of beef, 27 cents; bun, 1 cent; western-style baked beans, 4 cents; red potato salad, 1 cent; country slaw, 2 cents; milk, 3 cents; and a cookie, 1 cent.

"Lawmakers we talked with agreed that something has to be done about the rural economic situation," Carol Wegner said. "There were many sad stories told at the rally. We all hope something will come from our efforts.

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