4 Questions with Commissioner Dave Frederickson
Position: Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Role: To lead the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in its mission of enhancing Minnesotans' quality of life by ensuring the integrity of our food supply, the health of our environment, and the strength of our agricultural economy.
Do Minnesotans see and understand the value of the connections between manufacturing and agriculture?
First, let's look at the numbers to understand the value. The value of Minnesota's agricultural processing and manufacturing of food and kindred products is approximately $24 billion per year. Farm-level agricultural production of crops and livestock is valued at $16 billion
per year and that results in a combined total output value of $40 billion annually.
If consumers understand that value and make the connection between manufacturing and agriculture, they're more encouraged to purchase products from companies that they feel are making a direct economic impact locally. But there's always a need for more education about how our
food is produced and the process of getting it to the grocery shelves. If consumers do not have a family connection to agriculture, they are generally very surprised to find out what planning, costs and work go into growing crops and raising livestock each year and what steps are
taken to transform that commodity into a value-added product.
How does Minnesota's manufacturing sector help its agriculture sector, and vice versa?
Minnesota's agriculture and manufacturing are interdependent and agriculture is vital to the state's economy and manufacturing activities. The manufacturing sector provides agriculture producers varied sales channels for their raw commodities and ingredients. Many
manufacturers contract with farmers for their products or they want to purchase directly from the producer rather than just buying bulk product from a supplier. Value-added manufactured products can also provide opportunities for farmers to receive a premium price for their products
if they are producing them to a manufacturer's specifications.
Our agriculture sector helps manufacturers by 1) producing a sufficient supply of product to sustain product demand, 2) focusing on food safety and identity preservation in the supply chain, which helps ensure product quality in the finished product, and 3) supporting the
research and development of new products with enhanced yields and nutritional traits.
What opportunities do you see for the two sectors to work together for the benefit of Minnesota's economy as a whole?
Promoting value-added agricultural processing has and will continue to benefit the state in terms of creating employment opportunities and generating new income. A good example is processing corn into ethanol, which adds $600-$800 million per year to the value of Minnesota's
Another way the sectors can work together is in the area of food safety, which is a major issue domestically and internationally right now. Minnesota is ranked as one of the top states in terms of our system of checks and balances in maintaining a safe food supply. We need
food manufacturers and farmers to be involved in educating consumers about the steps that are taken in this country to maintain one of the safest food supplies in the world.
Environmental impacts are also on the top of public concern. Again, the agriculture and manufacturing community can highlight the steps that they take to preserve our environment and be good stewards of the land.
For manufacturers looking to develop moreconnections with the agriculture sector, what advice would you give to them?
Manufacturers should contact the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) or one of Minnesota's general farm or commodity organizations for ways to interact directly with producers. MDA works directly with these groups and has marketing and development staff willing to help.
Chambers of Commerce and other business associations can also provide networking opportunities for producers and manufacturers.