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Fifth GreenSeam State of Agriculture Report shows the majority feels state’s agriculture is heading in the right direction.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

April 3, 2024

4 Min Read
A colorful sunset over an open field
SUNNY, BUT …: Respondents to the State of Agriculture survey were optimistic overall, but concerns over higher costs, lower commodity prices and regulations hang like a cloud.Farm Progress

Cautious optimism is the overreaching theme from the 2024 State of Agriculture Report, an initiative of GreenSeam.

Overall, 76% of respondents feel that Minnesota agriculture is headed in the right direction. Though that is a good majority, Megan Roberts says that is down from 82% in the 2023 survey.

This is the fifth year of the State of Ag Survey, and this year’s general feel for the direction of Minnesota agriculture mirrors the 2020 survey with 76%. In between that first year and now, the positive outlook has been 92%, 83% and 82% for 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively.

This annual survey is a collaboration between Minnesota State University-Mankato, South Central College and GreenSeam. It is conducted online anonymously in January and February, and the results were announced March 19.

Though optimistic, “there is an awareness of the tailwinds of rising costs, continuing challenges with talent workforce and then, of course, there are also policy and environmental concerns,” Roberts says.

In addition to rising costs, Roberts points out that the lower optimism from last year could be pinned on lower commodity prices. “I thought, ‘Let’s do a year-over-year look at cash corn and cash soybean prices,’” she says. “So 365 days ago, we were, give or take depending where your basis is and where you’re hauling it to, we [spent] $2.20 more per bushel for cash corn, and approximately $3 per bushel more for cash soybeans. That’s a pretty significant reduction in cash grain prices.”

Roberts is an assistant professor of management at MSUM, and the agribusiness and food innovation program director at the College of Business. In addition, she and her husband also operate a Blue Earth County corn, soybeans and farrow-to-finish hog farm.

Survey respondents represented both ends of the environmental spectrum, as some felt regulations went too far, while others felt regulations were helping in their jobs.

Respondents were not required to indicate their home county, but those who did represent 53 of the state’s 87 counties, and Roberts says that regionalism came through in concerns raised by hog and dairy producers over California’s Prop 12 (that dictates how hogs are raised) and the overall dairy industry picture.

Always of concern is the availability of talent, or lack thereof, to fill employment voids, and that was reflected in the survey, as the number of businesses claiming not to be affected was reduced from 17% in 2023 to 12% in this year’s survey.

Get them young

DQ Spencer says a common thread within the survey as well as the seven focus groups is something “a lot of communities, industries and businesses are going through, and that’s human capital.”

“Find the talent, retain the talent,” he says. “In 2023 a lot of the issue was ‘Where are the people?’ Now it’s more of ‘how do I manage the people and how do I retain the people?’”

Spencer, a professor of business management at MSUM, says more businesses (54% in the survey) have turned to internships as a way to aid students down their career path, and 52% providing part-time jobs.

Planting the seed that agriculture is a viable career path must begin even before a person is in the job market, Spencer says.

“Yes, the present is very important, but we need to think about the future,” he says. “[Focus groups] talked about getting to the students earlier, not just in college career fairs or high school career fairs, but also getting to them in middle school, elementary school.”

Reaching youth and their families even before the child is enrolled in school can be achieved, and Spencer says organizations such as the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota in Mankato provides a perfect educational platform. “We’re building displays and activities and exhibits to make it more fun, but they’re also ag-oriented and ag-friendly,” he says. “A lot of the time people don’t know what ag is, but ag is everything. The more time that we can spend with students and their parents creates that awareness.”

In full disclosure, Spencer serves on the board of directors of the Children’s Museum.

Despite the various negative aspects, Roberts says survey respondents feel good about the region “and the vibrancy of our agribusiness community here in Minnesota.”

GreenSeam is an economic development organization for food and agriculture in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, and it is part of Greater Mankato Growth. Visit GreenSeam’s website for the complete State of Agriculture 2024 Report.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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