Top State Officials to Meet With Protesters Who Held Farm Credit Office
MANKATO, Minn. (AP) _ No charges will be filed against farm protesters who took over a regional farm loan office for seven hours and left when promised meetings with state officials, a sheriff said.
About 15 members of the farm activist group Groundswell chained shut the office doors of the Production Credit Association about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, demanding a moratorium on farm foreclosures, Blue Earth County Sheriff LeRoy Weibold said.
After negotiations with Weibold and credit association officials, the group left at 2:20 p.m.
Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III and state Agriculture Commissioner Jim Nichols were to meet today with the Groundswell protesters.
Wiebold said no charges would be filed, and Groundswell attorney Steve Rowley said that was part of the agreement reached with negotiatiors.
The protesters initially demanded that Gov. Rudy Perpich declare an immediate moratorium on farm mortgage foreclosures. The governor and Humphrey had refused to talk with the protesters while they still occupied the office.
″We’ve got people being forced off the land and we want to make sure that the politicians of this state will be forced to follow through with some of those promises they may not have held up to,″ Groundswell protester Jerry Boler told a news conference after the takeover ended.
″There’s another (legislative) session coming up about 30 days after the holidays, and we’d like this crisis and this pressure on all these farmers relieved right here, before the holidays,″ said Boler, of Truman.
″We’re both on the same side,″ said John Truwe, chief executive officer of Farm Credit Services in Mankato, speaking for the credit association at the news conference.
″We recognize that there are problems in agriculture and this is our only business, so their problems and ours mirror each other,″ Truwe said. ″We want to be sure that we understand their frustration and they understand ours.″
The associations, which issue agricultural loans only, are private, farmer- owned cooperatives regulated by the federal Farm Credit Administration.
Perpich’s office agreed to meet with Rowley and a small group of Groundswell members in the next two weeks, but no date has been set, said Gerry Nelson, the governor’s press secrertary.
Perpich has endorsed a 90-day voluntary moratorium by five major lending institutions on farmland mortgage foreclosures in the state. The lenders said they would offer a three-month grace period to farm borrowers who took part in an intensive mediation or counseling program.