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Published December 10, 2009, 11:07 PM

Ron Dvergsten, Thief River Falls, letter: Agriculture provides huge economic impact

In the five-plus years serving Northland Community and Technical College as dean of management education, I have coined a job-related mission statement for myself as “Northland Colleges’ Ambassador of Agriculture.” With the long winters, below-zero temperatures and snow-covered fields that are sure to come any day, it is easy to forget the fact that the industry that built our area was agriculture.

By: Ron Dvergsten,

THIEF RIVER FALLS — In the five-plus years serving Northland Community and Technical College as dean of management education, I have coined a job-related mission statement for myself as “Northland Colleges’ Ambassador of Agriculture.” With the long winters, below-zero temperatures and snow-covered fields that are sure to come any day, it is easy to forget the fact that the industry that built our area was agriculture. Yes, all business and industry is important for the area, but agriculture is the industry that first established the area. It seems that the importance of agriculture has been forgotten by many residents. With the discussion and development of alternative and renewable energy, agriculture and agribusiness is starting to get more attention. I want to let you know how important agriculture is economically to the area and will continue to be.

Each year, the farms involved in the Farm Business Management Program at Northland College complete a comprehensive analysis of their business. Yes, I put farm and business in the same sentence. In the 21st century, farmers need to think as businessmen. As part of the process in analyzing farms each year, the management department creates a database that provides valuable numbers for the involved farms to benchmark their operation to other farms in the area. This information also provides valuable economic impact information. The database figures in which the MNSCU Farm Business Management Program has provided for more than 50 years is considered by agriculture economists as the best they see.

Being the analytical individual that I am, I took it upon myself to do a little illustration of the huge economic impact that agriculture provides to the area. From our database for 2008, the average gross farm production for 2008 was more than $700,000 per farm. I researched Minnesota Agriculture Statistics to obtain some intriguing information. I took the six most northwestern Minnesota counties of Kittson, Roseau, Marshall, Polk, Pennington and Red Lake. From the Minnesota Agriculture Statistics numbers, this six-county area has more than 5,800 farms with nearly 3 million acres cropped each year. If we compute the average gross farm production and the average number of farms in this six-county area, it calculates to more than $4 billion of economic impact annually. Think of the economic impact that agriculture provides for the state of Minnesota.

Agriculture will remain to be a major economic engine for the area. I encourage students to sincerely give the thought of working in an agriculture-related field and staying in northwestern Minnesota true consideration. One in every four jobs in greater Minnesota is tied to agriculture. Those of you from the area who have a farm or rural community background have a real competitive advantage for future employment opportunities in agriculture related careers. As I have attended agriculture events over the years, agribusinesses are very concerned as to where their next generation of employees with agricultural and rural backgrounds will come from.

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