Minnesota Farm Advocate Oral History Project: Interview with Willard Brunelle
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Description BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Willard Brunelle had lived all his life on the family farm. He is of the fourth generation of his family to live there and took over its operation from his father thirty years ago. He became active in farm issues in 1983 as a result of his own financial difficulties. In about October of 1989 he lost part of one foot in a farm accident, and is being fitted with a prosthesis and is learning to walk again. Due at least in part to the accident, the future of the farm is again in question. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Brunelle describes his own involvement in farmers' rights issues: In July 1983 he attempted to obtain a Limited Resource Funds Loan, for which he was qualified, but it was denied by the office of FmHA(Farmer's Home Administration) in his district. He discovered that such loans were always denied by that office by simply failing to act on them. He then involved the president of the Farmers' Union, the Minnesota Governor and Commissioner of Agriculture, members of the Minnesota Congressional delegation, the head of the FmHA in Washington, DC and others. In February 1984, Brunelle and others staged a tractorcade in Thief River Falls to protest the situation - and gained national news coverage. The situation was resolved when FmHA began acting on the hundreds of loan applications being held in the district office; many were granted, including Brunelle's. He and others (notably Lou Anne Kling) felt it was important to assist and involve farmers more immediately in planning their own financial affairs and they began working to obtain state funding. Brunelle had formed the Northwest Minnesota Agricultural Action Committee in 1983, and the Minnesota Farm Advocate Program followed in 1984. But farmers had needs other than those being addressed by the Advocates, for example in obtaining food, fuel and mental and alcohol counselling. Brunelle initiated Project Friendship and helped set up Project Reality to provide the needed counselling. In 1985, the Ag Center (in Thief River Falls) was formed to make it possible to provide all of the necessary services under one roof. Businessmen in the small towns were suffering along with the farmers, but were unaware of sources of low-interest credit available to them. Brunelle and Jim Noyes went to Washington and discovered that such loans were available from the Small Business Administration. Brunelle says that attitudes have changed; it is no longer a matter of picking sides. Farmers and financial people now tend to work together toward the goal of keeping farmers on the land, where possible.
Quantity 1.5 hours sound cassette
58 pages transcript
Format Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Creation Interviewee: Brunelle, Willard
Interviewer: Hunter, Dianna
Made in [vicinity] Crookston, Polk County, Minnesota, United States
Subjects Made in [vicinity] Crookston, Polk County, Minnesota, United States
Dates Creation: 12/06/1989
Holding Type Oral History - Interview
Identifiers OH 37
Accession Number AV1991.158.3
More Info MHS Library Catalog
Related Collections Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Minnesota Farm Advocate Oral History Project'

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