Governor Dayton opens Farmfest forums with remarks on renewable energy, trade and regulatory streamlining

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Governor Mark Dayton appeared at Farmfest, the largest outdoor agriculture trade show in the upper Midwest, on Tuesday, August 1 and made remarks that opened the annual series of forum discussions conducted over the three day event. Over the noon hour, Dayton served as a guest announcer along with Lynn Kettleson, on the Linder Farm Network radio broadcast.

Dayton sketched out his rural roots–his family started its noted retail empire in Worthington, Minnesota–and talked about how important agriculture is to the state of Minnesota: “Agriculture and food processing represents 367,000 jobs in Minnesota–that’s more than any other sector except manufacturing. It’s one out of every five jobs in the state.”

The governor acknowledged the depth of the financial crisis at the state government and said the budget bill passed for this biennium merely “kicked the can down the road.” Permanent solutions to an imbalance of spending and revenue would have to be sought, and he intends to continue to pursue a plan to increase taxes on the state’s top earners so that programs he considers vital do not get cut.

Dayton announced that he will lead a trade delegation to Korea in September and that plans for a trade mission to China are coming together, perhaps in October. In conversation with US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Dayton was told that Korea and Vietnam represent great opportunities to expand US agricultural markets. Agricultural products are a huge export for the state.

Tom Schiefelbein, Kimmel, Minnesota, president of Minnesota Cattlemens’ Association, asked the governor what he intends to do about Minnesota’s regulatory environment. Sheifelbein called state and federal regulations on farming “painful” and noted that they represent a true impediment to farmers who want to grow their businesses enough to be able to bring their adult children in as partners. Instead, regulations enforce a kind of stasis, he said.

Dayton noted that he and the Minnesota Legislature agreed on the goal of streamlining regulation and that the heads of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources had embraced that goal as well. He concluded by offering the audience his home telephone number and promised that he would personally bring any regulatory difficulty on behalf of a farmer to the appropriate officials for review and resolution.

The governor, who spent six years as a US Senator for Minnesota, described the efforts of the huge oil lobby to try to defeat farm based energy, but that ethanol and biodiesel came out on top. He noted that Big Oil is at it again, but he is hopeful about the future of renewables and he plans to push for the expansion, especially of biomass-based renewable fuels. Feedstocks like switchgrass, Dayton said, would not directly compete with the animal feed market.



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