Director Larry Pogemiller from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education visited FarmFest last week to hear directly from those in the field about the connection between higher education and the Ag industry in Minnesota.
The strong partnership between the two was made evident by a panel of experts from the University of Minnesota, including President Eric Kaler. The discussion, “Innovations in Agriculture…Opportunities from the University” focused on the significant contributions the states only Land Grant institution has made in both educating students to work in the agriculture industries and as a world-leader in research and development of new technologies.
During the panel discussion, Kaler announced his intention to ramp up the University’s commitment to agriculture in the future, saying that Minnesota could be the “Silicon Valley” of the food industry. He plans to advance his idea of a stronger commitment to agriculture with state leaders leading into the next legislative session.
Photo by Dave Wild
Minnesota is one of the top livestock producers in the nation. The $7 billion livestock sector is a vital part of both the state’s agricultural production and its overall economy, and it is important that the industry remains able to produce at its top level. This is why the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced a new program to help Minnesota’s livestock farmers fund their operations in the long-term.
MDA Commissioner Dave Fredrickson has announced that $1 million in grant funding is being made available to livestock producers in the state for on-farm improvements – improvements that will encourage long-term development in the livestock sector The Livestock Investment Grant Program was first funded by the Minnesota legislature in 2008. Since then, 89 grant recipients have invested an estimated $31 million in improvements to their operations. Farmers can use the funds to purchase, build and improve buildings and facilities for livestock production, as well as purchase fencing and pay for feed and waste management equipment.
The improvements and modernizations available to livestock farmers with this funding will also help expedite the process of transitioning the farm to their sons or daughters, a process that could encourage more young Minnesotans to stay with their family farm and continue their families’ legacies of producing vital agricultural output for the state.
With Farmest 2012 underway, it is important to accentuate the importance of Minnesota’s farm families—the foundation of both our agriculture and our rural communities. Minnesota farm families raise crops and livestock efficiently in an environmentally friendly way; they also account for more than $3 billion in exports and provide the raw material for Minnesota’s leadership in renewable energy. This is why Governor Dayton has proclaimed today, August 9, 2012, to be Farm Family Recognition Day in Minnesota.
Minnesota’s health insurance exchange will give farmers affordable health care coverage choices for their families and their employees. Farmers can select low cost health insurance for their families from the consumer exchange, or purchase coverage for themselves and their employees from the small business exchange. Whatever the choice, farmers will see savings between 7.5 and 20 percent after federal tax credits.
From Grand Old Days to the State Fair, Minnesota has a terrific set of summer get-togethers. One particular event that is happening this week may not be on the radar screen for many urban Minnesotans, but it is a big deal for Minnesota farmers and others who work in agriculture.
Farmfest, held every August just outside Redwood Falls, is an opportunity to showcase the latest and greatest technologies and equipment, as well as an opportunity for farmers to learn about the range services provided to them by a bevy of organizations. Farmfest 2012 will be held this week, from Tuesday, August 7, through Thursday, August 9. Governor Dayton will be there on Tuesday, and will speak at the main forum tent at 1 p.m. just before Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson and a number of other leaders from partner agencies participate in a panel discussion on agriculture and water quality.
In addition to the forum events, several state agencies will have displays at booths around the Farmfest grounds. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) will have a sizable booth (#619) displaying information about new and notable programs and services of interest to farmers. This year, the display will feature segments on the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, as well as informative displays on anhydrous ammonia safety, plant pest controls, and agricultural marketing and development services designed to help farmers.
It has been a bizarre stretch of weather for much of the state, from a warm and dry winter to a wet spring to a summer of drought. Crop and weather reports show Minnesota is in better condition on average than other corn-belt states, but farmers don’t farm in the aggregate.
Rainfall has been spotty, and the health of an individual farmer’s crops – and his or her financial outlook – can vary dramatically depending on whether the fields happened to be under the right cloud at the right time. For livestock producers, even those with forage and feed on hand, the hot and dry summer has stressed animals and intensified concerns about feed costs.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Minnesota’s agricultural area is abnormally dry, and sizable portions of western and southern Minnesota are now experiencing moderate or severe drought. Every day that goes by without rain makes the situation worse. Of course, the suffering extends well beyond our state borders. As of late July, nearly 80 percent of America’s corn belt was in moderate drought or worse.
Recognizing this growing crisis, we recently sat down the leaders from many of Minnesota’s top agricultural organizations to ask them how state and federal officials might help. We can’t make it rain, but we can help farmers in three specific ways: first, by making sure federal officials are aware that Minnesota farmers are suffering from this drought; second, by making it easier for farmers to find useful crop and weather information; and third, by helping farmers access the range of state and federal programs available to help them.
Gypsy moths are tree pests that can defoliate large sections of forests and are among America's most destructive tree pests, having caused millions of dollars in damage. These moths are common in Wisconsin, but are now threatening Minnesota as well. Their preferred hosts are oak, poplar, birch and willow trees. The moths spread slowly on their own, but people can unintentionally speed up the process if they unwittingly transport firewood and other objects on which the moths have laid their eggs.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has recently completed treatment of approximately 150,000 acres of land in Carlton and St. Louis Counties to slow the spread of the moth. The infestation was identified last summer and the MDA has been working hard to slow down the infestation before it takes hold.
For over 70 years, National Dairy Month has been celebrated in the United States during the month of June to recognize the important role dairy plays in our nation. In the infographic above you can see some of the most important benefits dairy has for Minnesota, or, for more information, visit the website of the Midwest Dairy Association.
Deep-fried and served on a stick or wok-fried and served with chopsticks, food is one of the strongest connections between Minnesota and China.
Food is not just something to eat. It’s a reflection of taste and culture and geography and more. Food says a lot about people. It’s why we find the food in other countries and regions so interesting.
So it makes sense that Governor Mark Dayton’s trade mission to China has a strong emphasis on agriculture and food. It makes dollars, too. A whole lot of them.
China is Minnesota’s top market for agricultural commodities and related food products, with purchases of $1.35 billion in 2010.
“That accounts for more than one-fourth of Minnesota’s agricultural exports,” says state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, who is traveling with the delegation.
“In the past 10 years, our ag exports to China have jumped 800 percent, mostly driven by exports of bulk and intermediate commodities,” said Frederickson. “China’s the top buyer and the main market for Minnesota soybeans and a growing market for our pork.”
And it’s not just commodities. Sales of processed foods were $202 million. Push a cart through the aisles of a big supermarket in China and you’ll find more than a few iconic Minnesota food brands on the shelves.
Trumpeting the Bugles®
At one time or another, most Minnesota kids have eaten Bugles®, those crunchy, cone-shaped corn snacks made by General Mills that small children especially love to wear on their fingertips like a witch’s fingernails.
But unless you’ve been in China, you’ve never eaten “Seaweed” flavored Bugles®. In the Chinese market, the snack is made with potatoes, corn or rice and comes in dozens of flavors. In fact, Bugles® has become the leading brand among non-potato chip snacks in Greater China.
Curious how they market Bugles® in China? Take a look at this commercial on YouTube:
As Governor Dayton leads the state’s trade mission to China June 8-June 17, he is joined by many businesses and organizations representing Minnesota agriculture. China is the state's top foreign market for agricultural commodities and related food products, accounting for more than a quarter of Minnesota's agricultural exports. Agricultural businesses, food service companies, and other farming organizations join the larger delegation with the goal of fostering trade relations between Minnesota and China.
Among the farming companies that compose the delegation is Knewtson Soy Products, a family owned and operated farm in Good Thunder, Minnesota that exports 90% of their soybean production to food and feed manufacturers, with customers in several Southeast Asian countries. Additionally, Hastings Co-op Creamery, a 98-year-old company currently marketing milk and milk products for 105 dairy farmer members/owners, and Superior Feed Ingredients, a company based in Waconia, will also join the Governor as members of the delegation.
Also included in the delegation are key members of the food service industry, such as Dombrovski Meats, based in Foley, Minnesota, a family owned company, wholesale manufacturer, and national distributor of the highest quality meat products [see featured profile below]; Midwest AG Enterprises, Inc., a Marshall-based manufacturer and supplier of high quality feed ingredients for the livestock industry in China; and Michael Foods, the world’s largest egg processing company, based in Minnetonka, whose newest facility is located near Beijing.