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Published August 08, 2011, 04:44 AM

Healthy farm sector will help Minnesota capitalize on opportunities

ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s agricultural export figures for 2010 show an impressive 22 percent increase over 2009 sales. This is significantly higher than the national increase of 13 percent. It also compares favorably with other economic sectors. For example, Minnesota’s largest economic segment — manufacturing — posted a 17 percent increase.

By: Dave Frederickson,

ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s agricultural export figures for 2010 show an impressive 22 percent increase over 2009 sales. This is significantly higher than the national increase of 13 percent. It also compares favorably with other economic sectors. For example, Minnesota’s largest economic segment — manufacturing — posted a 17 percent increase.

Aside from taking the opportunity to brag on behalf of Minnesota agriculture, I mention these export numbers to highlight the great opportunity that China and other developing markets present for our farm and food sector. And the most exciting news is that this agricultural export growth is pumping new life into our state economy.

Each dollar of agricultural exports generates an additional $1.36 in economic and business activities. Every $1 billion of agricultural exports supports 8,000 jobs throughout the state economy — in both rural communities and urban centers. That means Minnesota’s 2010 agricultural exports supported more than 40,000 jobs.

Growth by agriculture

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton recently said the ultimate solution to the state’s budget woes will be vigorous economic growth. I agree completely, and I am excited about the role Minnesota agriculture can play in boosting our economy as we build on our successes with international trade.

As the world’s breadbasket, Minnesota and the other Midwestern states have a great opportunity. Far from being a relic of the past, agriculture has a chance to enter another era of sustained prosperity. And as a major driver of the rural economy, a resurgent agricultural sector can bring new life and economic vitality to rural parts of the state.

Of course, the policy choices we make about agriculture, land use, conservation, and rural development will make a big difference, not only in how much rural communities benefit from this opportunity, but in how effectively we meet the world’s real and pressing food security needs.

Strength in the sector

To fully capitalize on the opportunities ahead, we need policies that encourage a diverse and healthy farm sector, one with room for conventional and organic, large and small, crop and livestock, international and local.

We also need to build and maintain a strong rural transportation and commerce infrastructure — from roads to rail to high-speed Internet — to allow our farm sector to efficiently and inexpensively market its goods.

Last but not least, we need to ensure a high quality of life in rural communities to attract larger numbers of the nation’s highly talented young people into farming and the many other supporting businesses and professions.

I think the road to economic resurgence goes through rural Minnesota. Just as agriculture helped build this state in the 19th and 20th centuries, we now have the opportunity to help rebuild a new and healthy economy for the 21st century. Here at MDA, we look forward to working with our farm and food sector to make it happen.

Editor’s Note: Frederickson is Minnesota’s secretary of agriculture.

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