Mr. President, I rise today to commemorate Dave Serfling, a Minnesota farmer, father, friend, and activist who died tragically on January 8 while driving home from church. My thoughts and prayers go out to Dave's family, especially his wife Diane, his daughter Hannah, and his son Ethan. Along with Dave's immediate family, the family farming and sustainable agriculture community in Minnesota also experienced a great loss on that Sunday morning.
Dave raised hogs, beef cattle, sheep, and crops on 350 acres in southeast Minnesota's Fillmore County. During his 46 years, he made extraordinary contributions to sustainable agriculture. As a key member of the Land Stewardship Project's Federal Farm Policy Committee, Dave Serfling put his farming experience and analytical skills to work in developing a new farm program that would reward farmers for their environmental improvements to their farmlands. His ideas were championed by the great Senator from Iowa, Mr. Harkin, who was then chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. They became the genesis of Senator Harkin's Conservation Security Act, which is now a lasting legacy to Dave as an important nationwide agriculture program.
Dave testified before the Senate for policies helping family farmers in Minnesota and across the Nation. His statement to the Senate Agriculture Committee on July 31, 2001, typified his philosophy on farm policy and farming itself: ``I am a big believer in farm ingenuity. . . . Please don't tell the farmers how to farm. Just tell us what results you want to see on working land, give us meaningful financial incentives, and we American farmers will not let you down.''
Dave's involvement with the 2002 farm bill was just one example of his contributions to sustainable agriculture and family farming. In 1987, he and his wife Diane were one of the original farm families to be involved in the Land Stewardship Project's Stewardship Farming Program, an on-farm research and information exchange initiative, which became a national model for farmer-to-farmer education. The Serflings continued to be involved in on-farm research and education during the past two decades.
Throughout the years, Dave wrote extensively for various publications, including the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune and AgriNews. His writings and speeches combined Dave's razor-sharp analytical abilities with his own family's experiences as stewards of their Fillmore County farm. The Serfling farm had also been featured in the Christian Science Monitor, the Des Moines Register, the Chicago Tribune, and on National Public Radio.
In recent years, Dave and Diane's farm has been recognized for protecting the environment and raising animals humanely, while also making a profit. In 2005, Dave and Diane were given an Outstanding Conservationist award by the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. That same year, their farm was recognized by the national company, Niman Ranch, as a top producer of high-quality pork.
Dave was also a role model for his children when it came to the idea of lifelong learning. In December 2005, he received a master's degree in professional agriculture from Iowa State University after taking classes, one at a time, for 16 years.
At the time of his death, Dave was working on new ideas for the 2007 farm bill. He was helping develop a new farm initiative for conservation, commodity program reform, and rural development based on local food and farming systems.
Dave had his priorities right. He loved his family, he cared for his farm, and he worked for the betterment of his community and society. He lived his faith. Dave Serfling's absence from farming, farm policy, and Minnesota will be felt for a long time to come. However, he has left a legacy of stewardship of the land and a practical vision for family farming that will benefit today's farmers and future generations. Thank you, Dave. Rest in peace.
- July 19, 2007
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