Peterson, Craig talk farm issues in Red Wing, Minn.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., at a town hall meeting in Red Wing.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., holds up a sheet of paper with information about how the farm bill's safety net for dairy farmers works during a town hall with U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., in Red Wing, Minn., on Friday.
Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News

"How many of you are in favor of the wall?" U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson asked in a machine shed full of farmers gathered at a town hall meeting at a farm outside of Red Wing, Minn.

Only a couple of farmers raised their hands. Then another said, "Only if it has a gate."

Immigration — and finding a way to address the farm labor shortage — was one of several issues that came up during the event with U.S. Reps. Peterson and Angie Craig Friday. Others included health care, trade, mental health and low commodity prices.

John Jacobson of Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake, Minn., asked when the labor shortage and stalemate in Washington over immigration would be addressed.

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Jacobson said that even with an existing federal program that allows for temporary farm workers to come to the United States, he can't find workers.

"In five years, no one has come out. No one wants to do ag labor jobs," he said.

Both Peterson and Craig said they hope the labor shortage can be addressed, but lamented that the issue is caught up in political maneuvering. While both said they support border security, they said they do not support the extensive southern border wall President Trump has been asking for.

Peterson called the politics "ridiculous," saying he didn't know how it could be resolved.

Jeff Reed, who works out of Hampton, Minn., for beef producers
Jeff Reed, who works out of Hampton, Minn., for beef producers, asked a question during a town hall for farmers in Red Wing, Minn., on Friday.
Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News

Health care was another topic. Some farm families have had to rely on off-farm jobs just to get affordable health care, while others have paid steep premiums or gone without.

Richard Callstrom, whose family hosted the gathering, said he started farming in 1970. He's concerned about the health care costs his sons are facing as they take over the family's dairy and crop operation.

"I've been very fortunate. I've paid my own hospitalization insurance all my life. And my wife never had to work off the farm so we could have insurance," he said. "That doesn't happen much anymore."

Craig brought up the stress and mental health concerns that have been increasing in farm country and encouraged people to reach out for help if they need it.

"It often doesn't come up in these forums," Craig said, "but we all know it's there, and I just want us all to be there for each other."

She was met with a round of applause.