The Minnesota Committee on Agriculture and Rural Economies met last week to discuss trends and issues facing the Minnesota livestock industries.
According to committee chairman Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, agriculture is the largest industry in the state and must be maintained and improved in order for Minnesota to be successful into the future.
"I really believe Minnesota can't be as successful as we want it to be without a strong agriculture," Magnus said. "We can't have strong agriculture without both sides, grains and livestock, being healthy."
The committee's most recent meeting that took place last Thursday included reports from members of the livestock and poultry industries. The meeting was the first of several scheduled before the governor proposes his budget Feb 15. According to Magnus, legislators are getting informed of the issues facing agriculture to better understand where to put state funding in an already tight budget year.
"We are getting the background information we need to make the budget decisions," he said. "Agricultural is a cyclical businesses, they have up and down periods, but I think there are some trends overall we need to look at."
One such trend that needs addressing, Magnus said, is the dairy industry.
"The dairy price is very volatile," he said. "They go through periods where they are doing OK, and then go through periods where the are really suffering."
With balancing the budget at the forefront of lawmakers' minds, Magnus said they have to look at initiates, both new and current, to determine where best to spend dollars.
In the dairy industry, Magnus said he would like to continue funding livestock investment grants and dairy profitability teams, a program that sends Department of Agriculture officials to farms to evaluate areas that each farm could improve on to become more efficient and profitable. But, with such a large budget deficit, Magnus warned that everything is still on the table.
"I hope we can maintain it, but what we haven't gotten down to the budget discussion yet," he said. "We are getting the background information we need to make the budget decisions."
Other issues brought up during the meeting included the availability of pasture land for cattle producers and the lack of in-state meat processors. Currently the majority of beef cattle are sent out of state to be processed, Magnus said, and he would like to see that business returned to Minnesota to create more jobs in the state.
The committee is looking to balance available resources in an attempt to grow and maintain Minnesota's largest industry.
"We need to have the resources available," he said. "We have proof that what we have in place is working, we just want to make sure that we can keep the resources there to maintain the health of our livestock and poultry."