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State of ag looking good

Challenges exist, but optimism rules that day.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

March 29, 2023

2 Min Read
Sunrise over cornfield
SUNNY PICTURE: Respondents to a survey and focus groups share a cheerful attitude toward the current position and future of agriculture.George Peters/Getty Images

Agriculture is moving in the right direction. That’s the consensus revealed in the 2023 State of Agriculture report, showing 82% of those surveyed believe that agriculture in the region is heading positively.

This latest version of the State of Agriculture report, the fourth annual, was released by GreenSeam at a special Ag Day event in Mankato, Minn. Research was compiled by the Minnesota State University-Mankato College of Business. With this being the fourth such report, trend lines are starting to form, and this year’s respondents are 1 percentage point off last year’s respondents, saying ag is headed in the right direction.

The State of Agriculture report compiles data gleaned from an online survey held earlier this year, as well as from 11 focus groups each involving 10 to 15 people throughout GreenSeam’s area of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

What drives people’s feelings? A deeper dive into people’s optimism, Megan Roberts says. “We saw folks talking about good prices and profit. There are high commodity prices right now, but there’s also high costs — and inflation is rising, and some feel that the government is influencing that.”

Roberts, executive director of the Minnesota State Southern Agricultural Center of Excellence, says one cannot discount those who may not be as optimistic about agriculture’s direction in the region. Some angst centers around changing policies and regulations, and the uncertainty surrounding those regulations. “We certainly have some workforce and labor challenges,” she says. “We have very low unemployment here, which is great, but it can be challenging to find workers in agriculture.”

Future optimism

Current sentiment can vary from promise for the future, but respondents also show optimism for the economic prospects for their community in the next two to three years: 15% are very optimistic and 59% are somewhat optimistic.

That optimism carries over into business growth in 2023, as 13% see high growth in their business performance, 55% see some growth and 23% expect business performance to stay the same. That means the balance sees some decline or a sharp decline — 9% and 1%, respectively.

Roberts shares that talent and employees appear to be the largest issue facing a business’s ability to grow, with 49% of respondents indicating so, followed closely by policy and regulations at 45%.

Adding to the policy and regulations issue, 60% of respondents say state government challenges their business the most, followed by federal government at 33% and local government at 8%.

Inflation a primary concern

To no one’s surprise, inflation is a hot issue, which 92% of respondents say has affected their business.

Roberts credits Maria Kalyvaki and D.Q. Spencer, both with MSU-Mankato, for helping compile and facilitate the survey and focus groups.

The full report can be read online.

GreenSeam is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strategically building and connecting the region of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa’s extensive agricultural business assets to the world by enhancing collaboration and investment with public and private sector partners.

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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