For more than 30 years, Minnesota agriculture has organized Farmfest, an event to highlight and bring the state’s agricultural participants together. Minnesota Farmfest 2012 kicks off Tuesday, Aug. 7 at the Gilfillan Estate, seven miles southeast of Redwood Falls, Minn.  In addition to political forums, there will be lively debates on issues affecting the state’s farmers.

Farmfest 2012 will feature an exciting line-up of Feature Forums, as well as a U.S. Senate and Congressional Candidates Forum, according to Kent Thiesse, Farmfest Forum Coordinator. The forums will be held Aug. 7-9, in the forum tent on the Farmfest grounds. This year’s Forum schedule has a heavy emphasis on National and State agricultural policy issues, and on issues affecting rural Minnesota.

The schedule will feature the two Candidate Forums, as well as special forums on water quality issues, the renewable fuel standard and the University of Minnesota. A special forum will discuss livestock industry, featuring nationally known speaker Trent Loos. Keynote addresses will be given by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Senator Al Franken, and U of M President Eric Kaler. All of the rorums will provide ample time for questions, and follow-up discussion by panel members.

A new feature for Farmfest 2012 daily at 9:00 a.m. will be forums tilted: “IDEAg Interconnectivity …… the Future of Farming”. These forums will feature special presentations by agricultural innovators and company representatives focusing on the latest advancements in technology that are impacting the agriculture industry.

The "Congressional Candidate’s Forum on Agriculture and Rural Issues" will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 10:30 a.m. Congressional Candidates from Minnesota’s First, Second, Sixth, and Seventh Congressional Districts were invited to participate in the forum. Confirmed candidates include Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson (D), and his challenger Lee Byberg (R); First District Congressman Tim Walz (D) and his opponents Mike Parry (R) and Alan Quist (R); and Mike Obermueller (D), who is endorsed in the Second District to challenge Congressman John Kline. A panel of agricultural leaders representing various farm organizations and commodity groups will pose questions to the candidates on a variety of issues affecting agriculture and rural communities. Ideas for questions may be submitted via e-mail to Kent Thiesse, Farmfest Forum coordinator.

The "U.S. Senate Candidate’s Forum on Agriculture and Rural Issues" is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 10:30 a.m. The major candidates for U.S. Senate in Minnesota have agreed to participate in the forum, including U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and challengers Kurt Bills from the Republican Party, and Glen Menze from the Minnesota Independent Party. A panel of agriculture media representatives will pose questions to the candidates on a variety of issues affecting farmers and rural families.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will deliver a keynote address at FARMFEST on Tuesday, Aug.t 7, at 1:00 p.m. This will be followed by a feature Forum at 1:15 p.m. titled: “Water Quality Initiatives …… Future Impacts on Farmers ?” The forum will focus on various state and federal water quality initiatives that may affect farmers. Invited panel members will include the following: State Ag Commissioner Dave Frederickson; Minnesota DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr; John Jaschke, BWSR Executive Director; and Rebecca Flood Assistant Commissioner of MPCA; as well as Kevin Paap, Minnesota Farm Bureau President, Doug Peterson; Minnesota Farmers Union President; and Lawrence Sukalski, MN Ag Water Resource Center Chair.

Minnesota U.S. Senator Al Franken will deliver a keynote address at Farmfest on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 2:45 p.m., to kick-off a feature forum titled: “The Renewable Fuel Standard …… Fueling the Agricultural and Energy Industries” The forum panel will include Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy; along with Tim Rudnicki, Executive Director of Minnesota Biofuels Assn.; Brad Nelson, President of Minnesota Ethanol Producers Association.; Chad Willis, Chair of the National Corn Growers Association, ethanol committee; and Doug Peterson, president of Minnesota Farmers Union.

Trent Loos, a nationally known and very entertaining agricultural speaker, will highlight a special Livestock Industry Forum scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 1:15 p.m., which is titled: "Consumer Preferences …… Future Changes for the Livestock Industry".  Other livestock leaders on this panel will include Carissa Nath, AURI meat scientist; Duane Alberts, dairy producer and vice president of Minnesota Farm Bureau; Kevin Hugoson, Minnesota Pork Producers Association; President, Don Schiefelbein, president of the Minnesota State Cattleman’s Association; and Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the Broiler and Egg Association of Minnesota. This Forum will be followed by a special presentation by Trent Loos titled “Stop Defending Agriculture” at 3:00 p.m. in the Forum Tent, which is being sponsored by Minnesota Farm Bureau.

The feature Forum on Thursday, Aug. 9, at 10:30 a.m., is titled : “Innovation in Agriculture ...... Opportunities from the University". The forum will feature opening comments by Eric Kaler, University of Minnesota president. The panel will include the following U of M Department Heads and Directors: Brian Buhr, Applied Economics; Nancy Ehlke, Agronomy and Plant Genetics; Mike White, Animal Science; and Dr. Ira Muscovice, Rural Health Research Center.

The “Farm Family of the Year” Recognition Program will be held on Thursday, Aug. 9, at 1:30 p.m., in the forum tent. Approximately 70 honored farm families from throughout Minnesota have been selected at the county level for this recognition. This event is jointly sponsored by Farmfest and the University of Minnesota. The free “Minnesota Farm Bureau Breakfast” will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 8, starting at 8:00 a.m., in the forum tent.

For more information on the forums and other Farmfest activities, including driving directions, click here.