On Nov. 27, the regional Citizen Forums on the Environment will begin with forums in Rochester and Bloomington.
The forums are an opportunity for Minnesotans to interact with state agency commissioners and staff, and learn more about Minnesota’s Environment & Energy Report Card. Those attending the forums will be asked to answer key questions and submit more in-depth ideas for consideration.
The State of Minnesota wants to hear what Minnesotans’ priorities and visions are for the environment. The input gathered at the forums will be compiled and presented to the Dayton Administration at a statewide Environmental Congress next March.
The Minnesota Environmental Congress and the Citizens Forums leading up to it are the result of Governor Dayton’s Executive Order 11-32. To assess Minnesota’s progress toward clean air, water and energy, the Environmental Quality Board is convening Citizen Forums around the state to engage citizens in constructive dialogue, identify environmental challenges, and define a vision for Minnesota’s environmental future.
Today, Governor Dayton, Commissioner of Agriculture Dave Frederickson, Minnesota’s Turkey Growers Association (MTGA), and Hunger Solutions Minnesota, kicked off Thanksgiving week in Minnesota at the Governor’s Office. Minnesota is currently ranked #1 for turkey production in the U.S. with its 250 turkey farmers raising an estimated 47 million turkeys in 2012. Governor Dayton, Minnesota’s turkey farmers, and Hunger Solutions Minnesota also addressed ending hunger across the state.
The event was a time-honored tradition, going back more than two decades.
President and turkey farmer Duane Jaenicke announced the donation of 11,150 pounds of turkey - a total of 1,180 whole birds - to Hunger Solutions Minnesota (HSM), which will be distributed to food shelves and food banks across the state.
Governor Dayton tours the Biotechnology Advancement Center
Governor Mark Dayton visited Worthington’s Biotechnology Advancement Center last Friday to assess opportunities and challenges to Minnesota’s agriculture sector as he continued Working for Minnesota Jobs.
While visiting the center, Governor Dayton and Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson held a roundtable talk with industry leaders, farmers, and business owners to discuss how to grow jobs in Minnesota’s farm and food sector, and to encourage continued innovation in the state’s agriculture technology industry. Following the roundtable discussion, Governor Dayton and Commissioner Frederickson took some time out of their busy schedules to tour the Center and Newport Laboratories.
After manufacturing, Minnesota’s farm and food sector is the second largest segment of the state’s economy providing more than 340,000 jobs and $75 billion in annual economic activity. More than 80 percent of those jobs are off-farm jobs in categories like transportation, finance, manufacturing, and retail.
A MinnWest employee shows off innovations to Governor Mark Dayton and Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson
Governor Mark Dayton kicked off his statewide jobs tour on Friday in Willmar, meeting with a dozen local leaders in business, government, and higher education to discuss opportunities and barriers for the state’s economic growth. The tour will continue over the next several months as Dayton meets with leaders in other Minnesota communities to solicit direct input.
Dayton began the tour in the midst of Minnesota’s recovery from one of the worst recessions in the nation’s history. The governor will use his listening tour to gather ideas on what should be done in the next legislative session to position the state for economic growth and job creation in the recession’s aftermath.
The public meeting in Willmar was held at the MinnWest Technology Campus, where businesses are working to develop new bioscience and agricultural technology with significant implications for export growth – and new jobs. The state’s agriculture and food production industry is already responsible for 4,800 jobs and $250 million in annual wages.
A new grant awarded from the FDA will ensure that Minnesota continues to lead the nation in food safety.
Minnesotans will now have new help in fighting contaminated food and food-borne illnesses that, according to the CDC, affect 1 in 6 Americans every year.
The help comes in the form of $600,000 in grant money which was awarded to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture this week by the FDA.
The money will be used to create a Minnesota Food Safety Center of Excellence which will work to: gather foodborne-illness surveillance data, provide rapid identification of pathogens, and respond effectively by removing tainted food as quickly as possible.
The three-year grants will help the Agriculture Department more quickly trace contaminated foods to grocery stores and other distribution points, and will help bolster MDA efforts to ensure that recalled products are quickly and fully withdrawn from the marketplace.
So what does this mean for the average Minnesotan?
Organic cows and calves raised at Derrydale Farms near Le Sueur, MN
Governor Dayton wants to make sure Minnesota’s organic farmers and food companies know that the Minnesota Organic Certification Cost Share Program is now taking applications.
The organic marketplace continues to grow but something you may not know is that organic farmers and food manufacturers have to “ante up” in order to access this market. They go through a verification process, called “organic certification” that provides consumer assurance that they are following all the provisions of the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards. And the organic operations themselves have to pay for this certification, which costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year -- depending on the size of the farm or company’s sales.
The USDA provides each state with funds to defray these costs. Organic operations are eligible for a rebate of 75% on what they spend for certification -- capped at $750 per certificate or type of certification they have. For example, dairy farmers pay to have both their crops and animals certified, so their maximum payment is $1,500.
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.