Legislative Report – 13th Annual International Legislators Forum -Senator Murphy
From 1982 until 1997 when the big flood hit the Red River Valley, I escorted MayPort CG students on a once-yearly school trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba. The ’97 flood waters prevented us from paralleling the river to that cosmopolitan city with such important trade and cultural ties to North Dakota and Minnesota. School budget problems preempted the trip from that point on until the reactions to the War on Terror necessitated a passport as is still the case if one wishes to enter Canada. I mention this because last week I once again drove up to Winnipeg as a newly appointed member to the 13th Annual International Legislators Forum and was reminded of the importance of that relationship.
Canada is our number one trading partner – by far. This Forum was brought about by lawmakers from Canada, Minnesota and North Dakota as a response to problems exacerbated by that same 1997 flood that stopped our school trip. Most of you know that our Red River begins in Wahpeton where the Bois de Sioux River (flowing from Lake Traverse which is split between Minnesota and South Dakota) joins the Ottertail River (emanating from Big Elbow Lake about 15 miles as the crow flies from Lake Itasca in Minnesota). As for Canada, recall that the Mouse/Souris River (Minot area) is a tributary of the Assiniboine River which meets the Red in Winnipeg. As a result of this geography, those three states and Manitoba have been meeting annually to discuss the issues of this drainage basin as well as other issues such as trade and energy. Our mileage and room was paid for by an NGO called the Consensus Council which encourages these types of meetings.
So, what did we accomplish? That would be hard to state in terms of concrete results, but if you are a farmer reading this, it is kind of like when you attend a meeting where the smart meteorologist (there was one at this one) or economist lectures – you may walk out feeling like you understand your place and situation a bit better but not immediately sure how. To me,it was worth the time and trouble because I now know people to call and speak with in Canada, Minnesota and South Dakota about specific issues. We heard presentations on the USA Farm Bill, important and for the first time ever recently defeated on the floor in Congress. Certainty is desirable and fleeting in agriculture and its resulting trade; not having a farm bill is contributing to uncertainty and makes our trade partners uneasy. We heard from experts on climate cycles and projections (they do not know much in terms of certainty), water supplies and sources, jurisdictional approaches to water, etc. Energy took center stage the next day as we heard about the regional picture of electrical generation and transmission (we do work well with other states and Canada in the energy grid). We also got an update on the ND oil boom.
Our states and countries do need to be able to plan and cooperate with each other on these topics and I look forward to the challenges through cooperative efforts like the International Legislators Forum. By the way, Morrie Lanning (ex-mayor of Moorhead and retiring Minnesota legislator), a name many of you recognize, was honored for his longtime service to the Forum and was there to pass on his expertise. I would also encourage you parents, if at all possible, to get passports for your children and take them to Winnipeg because now most children have never been there. It has always struck me as improbable that such a cosmopolitan city is so near to us (185 miles from my home in Portland). That city and river also explain how this current civilization got rooted in our valley and how we were the go-between for Winnipeg and Minneapolis/St. Paul.