Promote agriculture progress in Minnesota

To the editor:

After another successful Farmfest, Minnesotan farmers are looking toward what’s next. The annual event brings together families, producers, ag innovators and policymakers from across the state to showcase exciting developments happening in farming, while also highlighting current challenges.

This important agricultural gathering demonstrates the strength of our ag-community and commitment of all those involved to ensuring that this industry remains the cornerstone of our economy.

Minnesota’s agricultural industry has a $23.3 billion impact on the state’s economy. The strength of our farms ranks Minnesota as the fifth largest agricultural state in the country. The industry itself employs over 150,000 Minnesotans while supporting countless others in our communities. A strong farming economy is the solution to lifting up our struggling rural towns while buoying all Minnesotans in the process.

As everyone in the ag industry knows, innovation is a requirement for protecting our farmland. Farmers are problem solvers by nature, preferring to put in the hours and get our hands dirty in pursuit of advancing our business. Just like our crops, this innovation must be carefully nurtured through the encouragement of policies necessary to bringing game changing technologies to market.

Recent deals between agriculture’s leading innovators are welcome news for Minnesotan farms who have seen price stagnation due to a lagging ag-economy. With Dow-Dupont and Bayer-Monsanto potentially combining their R & D capabilities through upcoming mergers, the operations of traditional Minnesotan farms stand to increase dramatically.

From the more autonomous farming equipment, to more resilient seed traits, and time saving crop monitoring systems, these state-of-the-art innovations may give American farmers an edge as they compete in an increasingly globalized economy.

However, the need for innovation in Minnesota’s fields extends far beyond business concerns. Farmers have an obligation to remain caretakers of the land, protecting our environment from harm while increasing quality yields. The latest advances in biotechnology and GMOs created through private sector innovation allow farmers to grow more food, on less land, while reducing the impact of pesticide use.

We have seen time and again how government policy can either support or hinder the speed at which private companies innovate. By trusting in the strength of the free market, lawmakers can harness a competitive marketplace that pushes industry to meet new challenges with innovation.

Working with our leading agricultural companies, rather than undermining them with needless regulations and government intervention, can build a cohesive industry focused on providing farmers with the tools they need.

With buy-in from farmers, lawmakers, and industry leaders we can shape a more nimble and effective agricultural industry that places progress above all else. But the pace of innovation is dependent on policies that energize the modernization of processes and technology across the board. Our family farms, which serve as the backbone for countless Minnesotan towns, deserve solutions and should be above partisan politics.

While Farmfest happens just once a year, encouraging agricultural progress must be a priority every single day. There will always be more crops to grow, soil to manage, and markets to tap. By promoting agricultural innovation from all areas, Minnesotans can shake up the status quo and put an industry essential to our state’s character on track to thrive.

Karolyn Zurn

president, Minnesota Agri-Women

Brad Gruhot

director, Marshall Chamber of Commerce