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Column: Investment in ag research is the right decision for legislators

By Brian Thalmann and Greg Boerboom

In 2015, the Minnesota legislature established the Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Tech Transfer program (AGREETT) with a three-year investment in agricultural research at the University of Minnesota. The goal: Achieve long-term sustainability in Minnesota’s ag sector.

With the three-year investment now complete, lawmakers must again decide this legislative session if they will continue funding AGREETT and its goal to make Minnesota a national leader in agriculture and food. If legislators weigh this investment solely on its potential return, their support should be a no-brainer.

Through AGREETT, the University of Minnesota has hired 21 talented faculty members in Extension, the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS). From manure and nitrogen management experts to Extension educators specializing in ag economics or pre-harvest food safety, the myriad backgrounds of researchers brought to Minnesota are making an impact in all aspects of our ag sector.

The influx of talented faculty hired through AGREETT are helping farmers maintain healthier livestock and hardier crops with increased resistance to disease and pests. AGREETT researchers are tackling issues that will make our cropland more productive by finding solutions to increase soil fertility while maintaining clean water. And during a period when they are more important than ever, on-farm efficiencies of all kinds have been identified through AGREETT-funded research.  

In short, each AGREETT hire contributes to the larger puzzle of a more sustainable future for agriculture in Minnesota. With farmers recently wrapping up a 2018 that produced the lowest median farm income in 23 years, now is not the time to halt the momentum we have ignited over the last three years through this program.

The state’s crop and livestock farmers ask the Minnesota Legislature to increase, or at the very least continue, funding of AGREETT. While the impact of each hire through the program has been felt throughout Minnesota farm country over the last three years, we still have work to do.

Continued investment in AGREETT keeps Minnesota on the path to long-term sustainability in agriculture. Stopping short of reaching that goal now would represent a wasted opportunity.

Brian Thalmann is president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. Greg Boerboom is president of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association.