Why Investment in Agriculture Research & Education is Critical

Sparks Portrait

For 40 years, Minnesota’s primary agriculture research at educational institutions as well as extension services has been funded through a legislative appropriation known as the ‘Agriculture Special. The numbers have been slowly dwindling for the past 14 years to the detriment of Ag research in the state. This decline in funding has meant quality research projects don’t get funded and needed instructors can’t be hired. This session I am chief authoring a bill to restore funding caused by cuts made over the past decade and a half. I believe these investments will help create a more robust infrastructure for agriculture research in Minnesota.

My bill invests $38.8 million in the next biennium, and calls for the creation of the Agriculture Research, Education and Technology Transfer Board. This Board would be comprised of members of the Agriculture community as well as agricultural research and education specialists from the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. The board would be in charge of administering grants for three distinct purposes; to rebuild our research and technology transfer infrastructure, support state rapid response efforts, and stabilize E-12 and higher education Ag Ed. Programs.

Agriculture research has long been an important economic engine for the state. Minnesota is the sixth most reliant state on food and agriculture. Ag receipts total $21.5 billion a year. Needless to say, agriculture is important to our state economy, so investment in research and education should be viewed as equally important.

Production agriculture has traditionally had strong ties to our public research facilities. Commodity groups and other organizations continue to heavily invest dollars in faculty and programming at these institutions. With increased state support and the board’s guidance, we will restore and enhance the work of this public, private partnership at the University of Minnesota, research and outreach centers, the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources, MN Ag Experiment Station, the Veterinary School and Vet Diagnostic lab, among others.

The new investments would also go to help fund the agriculture rapid response program which responds to urgent issues affecting the state’s agriculture and natural resources industries. Past response projects include developing the nation’s first tests to identify the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus that hit the state’s swine population, and eliminating avian diseases within the state’s turkey population. This program is critical to protecting the state’s agriculture and farming systems.

Funding for agriculture education is the third area of funding. This includes the Minnesota Agriculture Education Leadership Council, high school programs, and Farm Business Management.  Providing mentoring and encouraging programs for young farmers will ensure they have the support systems they need and the knowledge to succeed in the Ag business.

 

If you have questions regarding these or other matters, please contact my office at 651-296-9248.

Senator Dan Sparks
Dan Sparks represents District 27, which includes all or portions of Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Mower, and Steele counties in the southeastern part of the state.

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