LAKE PARK, Minn. - So what can Americans, and particularly farmers in rural Minnesota, expect from a Trump presidency in 2017?
"Honest answer? I have no idea - and no one else I know does either," said U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), addressing a group of about 30 Becker County residents during an Agricultural Issues Forum hosted by the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.
Peterson said that he was "waiting to see" who would be picked to be the new Secretary of Agriculture under president-elect Donald Trump's administration.
"I'm not sure what kind of message it sends" that Trump hasn't yet picked a new ag secretary, Peterson added.
As for the current U.S. Farm Bill, which expires in December 2018, Peterson said he does expect to see some changes under Trump's leadership - and not all of them are bad in his book.
"I'm 100 percent with him (Trump) on wanting to get rid of NAFTA," said Peterson, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement, of which the president-elect has been a very vocal opponent, calling it "the worst trade deal in history."
Peterson said that he had fought the passage of NAFTA, and hopes that Trump will keep his word and see it repealed after he takes office.
He also expressed his opposition to the federal Agriculture Risk Coverage program that was included in the 2014 Farm Bill, noting that "the Senate forced it on us," and Minnesota's new buffer strip law, which he said was "a fiasco, and it should be repealed."
Peterson later said he would like to bring the Conservation Reserve Program "back to the way it used to be."
"Make it simple and I think it'll work," he said.
Peterson led off Tuesday's Ag Issues Forum, which was held at the Lake Park American Legion. Also at the forum, precision agronomy consultant Michael Steeke of Dynamic Cropping Systems showed how some of the latest technologies in precision mapping and application of farm inputs like seed, fertilizer and herbicides can be used to maximize farmers' return on investment and "farm less, make more (money)."
Precision mapping of all the different soil types, chemical inputs and other data "shows exactly where you're making money," Steeke said - and exactly which acres might need to be taken out of production, either temporarily or permanently, in order to maximize profit.
Not all of these technological improvements require the latest in equipment, he added.
"Retrofitting existing equipment can be very feasible," he said, adding, "You can pretty much upgrade anything."
Lynn Paulson of Bell Bank presented "A Positive Farm Future: Asset & Risk Managing," which included an overview of the changes in how farming operations are financed, from the 1980s to the present.
He talked about how the commodity prices between 2006-2012, when corn was selling for $7 or $8 a bushel, was not, as many people thought, "the new norm," but rather "the worst thing that could have happened to the industry."
"Everyone was making money," he said. "That's not a normal distribution curve."
In other words, it couldn't last - and now many farmers, while not actually insolvent, are facing a "liquidity crisis" because all of their capital is tied up in farm equipment and technology, land purchases and other, non-farm investments.
He concluded his presentation with "The Three C's of Lending" - being "conservative in the good times," "courageous in the tough times," and "consistent all the time."
Other presentations at Tuesday's forum included an overview of Minnesota's new buffer strip law and the other conservation and water quality programs managed by the Becker Soil & Water Conservation District; and a look at current agronomic trends by Luke Langerud, location manager of West Central Ag Services in Lake Park.