Open house to focus on ag

FAIRMONT – The clothes we wear, the food we eat, the fuel we burn – all of it comes from America’s farmers and ranchers. They constitute a tiny fraction of the world’s population, but affect everyone.

“Agriculture: 365 Sunrises and 7 Billion Mouths to Feed” is the theme for National Ag Day, slated for Tuesday.

Locally, the USDA Farm Service Agency at 923 S. State St. will host an open house from 2-4 p.m. They hope it will foster awareness and appreciation for what the agricultural community does for the country.

“Our main duty is to administer farm bills,” said Nicki Miranowski, county executive director of the Farm Service Agency.

Her office is still waiting for information on implementing program changes after Congress recently passed a new farm bill.

Miranowski alternates her time between offices in Fairmont and Blue Earth.

“We have permanent shared management for Martin and Faribault counties,” she said, noting the joint project began in June 2013.

The agency also maintains a disaster assistance program, helping producers when there is a livestock disaster, such as a recent summer in which intense heat caused animals to perish.

“What’s kind of unique about FSA is that there’s a county committee made up of farmers from our county,” Miranowski said. This board offers a grassroots level of input to the USDA.

The agency’s office also houses a farm loan division, headed by Scott Nordby.

Unlike traditional financial institutions, the agency has a loan limit of $300,000.

“We make loans to beginning farmers and other farmers in need, for operating expenses, machinery, real estate and livestock,” Nordby explained. His clients frequently are “folks who can’t get credit elsewhere,” such as a beginning farmer.

According to the recent Census of Agriculture, the United States is beginning to reverse the trend toward aging farmers, with an increase in the number of farmers under the age of 35.

“There’s still a lot of interest [in agriculture],” Nordby said. “It’s been pretty steady in recent years.”