Minnesota Ag Week an opportune time to thank a farmer.

 Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Farmers provide the food we eat, the clothing we wear as well as much of the energy and materials we depend on in our everyday lives.

The week of March 13 will provide an especially opportune moment to express gratitude for all farmers do, as Governor Mark Dayton has proclaimed it Minnesota Agriculture Week. “The designation is an effort to raise awareness of the positive and important contributions agriculture makes to Minnesota’s economy and its people,” he said.

“I want to encourage all farmers to invest time and energy to reaching out to the public to let them know what’s happening on today’s farm, to give everyone a sense of connection to their food, clothing, energy and other products that come from the farm,” said Greg Schwarz, a farmer in Le Sueur, Minnesota, who raises corn, soybeans and turkeys, and who is an investor and advocate in grain-based ethanol production.

Nearly one in five jobs in the state are linked to agriculture, Gov. Dayton’s office noted in its proclamation of Minnesota Agriculture Week.

“A key part of Minnesota’s abiding strength through very tumultuous economic times is our strong agricultural base,” said Schwarz.

Dayton also noted that, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), farming in Minnesota created $13.3 billion in farm income.

“Agriculture also creates a positive balance of trade while we help feed, clothe and energize the world, thanks to exports from Minnesota farms,” said Schwarz.

 NASS-USDA reported Minnesota farms generated $4.3 billion in exports in 2009.

“That means we have to have forward-looking public policy that encourages investment in the infrastructure that connects Minnesota farms to world markets,” said Jerry Ploehn, a farmer in Alpha, Minnesota, and chairman of Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council. “But it also shows there’s an opportunity for more value-added investment here. We hope farmers, agribusiness and government can work as partners to continue to grow value-added agriculture here. When we make a gallon of ethanol and ship that out of the state we get an even greater economic benefit than simply shipping raw grain.”

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson says it is appropriate and important to recognize an industry that contributes so much to the overall health and wellbeing of Minnesota.

“Minnesota’s farmers and ranchers care deeply about the world around them,” says Frederickson. “These men and women work hard each day to make sure we have safe and wholesome food to eat, they help protect the environment, and they brave the elements so their animals are cared for and well fed.”

Minnesota Agriculture Week is being recognized in conjunction with National Ag Week. 2011 marks the 38th anniversary of the national celebration.

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