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Minnesota Farm Advocate Oral History Project: Interview with Anne De Meurisse
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Anne de Meurisse came to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, with a degree in soil science and an interest in enviornmental issues. She began work in January 1984 studying the amount being loaned by the FmHA (Farmers' Home Administration) under its disaster loan program. In January 1985 she was also assigned (half time) to coordinate the Minnesota Farm Advocates Program, and she continued in that capacity until the summer of 1988. From about December 1988 until the time of this interview she has been with the Minnesota Food Association. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: The economic problems of all farmers (brought on by low commodity prices and a lack of any safety net) were made worse in northwestern Minnesota by a period of unfavorable weather. Also, the farmers were not able to obtain loans from the FmHA office in that area. Consequently disaster hit there first. At the same time (1984-1985), the developing farm crisis was coming to the attention of the general public (although conservative, agribusiness and financial interests were still denying its existance). However, by 1986 no one doubted that there was a serious problem. The Farm Advocate Program was formed in 1984 as a short term operation. The Advocates worked under individual contracts; they were not state employees. They were opposed initially by many conservatives and by the bureaucracy of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. However, the need for the Advocates and the integrity of their work soon became apparent and the opposition disappeared. Under the leadership of Anne Kanten and Jim Nichols, the Department of Agriculture granted the Advocates considerable freedom to operate (believing that they best knew how to deal with the problem). The Farm Advocate Program itself has developed by confronting crises - i.e. without much planning or organizing. Its advantages include an even distribution of Advocates throughout the state and good training sessions by professionals (such as lawyers specializing in various areas and human services and financial professionals). Also, as the Advocates built up a body of experience, they helped one another. The Advocates strong point has been in understanding individual farmers' problems and putting them in contact with such help as is available. They are underpaid but remain because of their belief in the Program and loyalty to their clients. Anne de Meurisse says that we are bringing on a Third World rural economy and society of our own in this country: The financial pressures are forcing farm couples who want to remain on their farms to also hold down nonfarm jobs (often several of them). The farm community is being destabilized. The control of the land is moving to large agribusinesses.
1.5 hours sound cassette
23 pages transcript
Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Interviewee: De Meurisse, Anne
Interviewer: Hunter, Dianna
Made in: Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, United States
|Holding Type||Oral History - Interview|
OH 37 (Library Call Number)
AV1991.158.6 (Accession Number)
MHS Library Catalog
Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Minnesota Farm Advocate Oral History Project'