Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
First, the good news: Minnesota's animal agriculture industry still has what it takes to compete and thrive in the 21st century. The sector generates more than $10 billion in economic activity and nearly 100,000 jobs for the state, and we have a number of competitive advantages over producers elsewhere. Now the bad news: the industry's competitive ability is slipping and unless Minnesota takes bold action to restore that competitive ability, we are going to lose what we still have in place. A report recently released by Governor Pawlenty's Livestock Advisory Task Force provides a solid blueprint to restoring competitive ability: Help farmers feel good about investing in their own future. The 14-member task force included representatives from the state's livestock industry as well as agricultural finance, producer organizations, academia and state government. The group met over the past six months to discuss Minnesota's livestock sector and develop a list of recommendations to boost the sector's competitive ability. According to the report, Minnesota's animal agriculture industry suffers from insufficient on-farm investment while competitors in other states and countries have modernized and developed more efficient production systems. As a result, the state's farm production sector is not able to compete as effectively in the global agricultural marketplace. To address this problem, the task force developed its recommendations to encourage more on-farm investment by existing Minnesota farm families and beginning farmers. The recommendations focus on stimulating producer investment by improving the uniformity, timeliness and predictability of permitting and local siting processes. They also call for improving farmers' access to capital and placing emphasis on academic research that supports farm profitability. A complete copy of the report and recommendations is online at www.governor.state.mn.us. I had the privilege of serving as co-chair of the task force, and I want to thank each of the members for their contributions. I also want to thank Governor Pawlenty for providing solid leadership on this important issue. It is important to realize that this report, while lengthy, does not attempt to address every single challenge facing the animal agriculture industry. Such an effort would be unrealistic, unfocused and ultimately futile. Rather, the report addresses what task force members believe are the most significant issues for the long-term health of the sector as a whole. As we implement the recommendations made by the task force, we must keep in mind that this effort is one that will not necessarily provide immediate gratification. The challenges were a long time in developing, and it will take time for the solutions to have full impact. Nevertheless, I am more hopeful than ever that if we act now, Minnesota will remain a factor in animal agriculture for decades to come.