AgriGrowth and Federal Advocacy

We serve as conveners, advocates, and thought leaders by creating common ground solutions that move the food and agriculture industry forward.

Federal Public Policy Priorities 2020

AgriGrowth’s mission is to advocate for a positive business climate for Minnesota’s food and agriculture sector. Throughout the year, AgriGrowth actively represents our members’ interests with Minnesota’s congressional delegation and federal agencies.

AgriGrowth’s federal policy priorities are developed from member interests and concerns identified through member discussions, regional meetings, the annual public policy survey and our public policy committee. AgriGrowth’s priority list does not include the full range of federal public policy issues that AgriGrowth engages in through the year. Rather, it highlights key areas of interest or concern to our organization.

U.S. Trade Agreements

Opening new markets and reducing barriers to U.S. ag and food exports are key to the long-term competitiveness of, and future growth for, Minnesota (and U.S.) agriculture. Minnesota is the 4th largest agricultural exporting state in the United States. Exports make up a full one-third of Minnesota’s total agricultural sales, and some 60,000 Minnesota jobs are tied directly or indirectly to agricultural exports. In addition, processed foods – including meat and poultry – now account for more than fifty percent of total U.S. food and agricultural exports. We strongly encourage the federal government to improve our trade relations and expand exports, rather than focusing on tactics that cause our trading partners to seek alternative markets.

AgriGrowth applauds the signing of the United States-Mexica-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and its recent approval by the U.S. House and Senate. Farmers and food producers need the rules-based market access provided by this agreement; which should be implemented as quickly as possible to ensure market certainty.

The Phase I China Trade Agreement is a welcome first step toward regaining access to top markets for American farmers and food producers. AgriGrowth urges the Administration to actively continue trade discussions with China in order to further establish standards and rules for U.S.-China trade that will put American agriculture back on the path to supplying needed food, feed, fiber and energy to the Chinese market. Without additional progress, competitors will continue to gain market access at the expense of American agriculture.

AgriGrowth strongly urges the U.S. government to work aggressively to negotiate new trade agreements (e.g., the UK, India, the EU and other markets) to allow Minnesota agriculture to help feed the 95 percent of the world’s population that lives outside of the U.S.

Infrastructure Investments

Minnesota’s agriculture sector relies on many forms of transportation. We depend on our nation’s highways, roads and bridges, as well as rail and waterways; not only to move products to domestic and international markets, but also to transport necessary inputs to our farms.

AgriGrowth strongly supports federal efforts to invest in our nation’s transportation infrastructure including this Administration’s pledge of $1 trillion. Priorities should include modernization of the aging Mississippi River locks and dams system, our state’s freight rail network, flood hazard mitigation projects and the nations’s highway system.

Climate Adaptation

Minnesota’s climate and weather have shaped our state’s agriculture for centuries, including production practices, modes of transportation and distribution routes. Farmers and agribusiness are continuously innovating and improving their practices to improve the sustainability and resiliency of their production systems, contributing to generations of improved practices and methods. Today’s attention to the impact of human activity on the global climate and related food supply issues highlights the need to acknowledge how agriculture can positively address climate change.

Efforts to mitigate climate change impacts on the food and agriculture system provide an opportunity for Minnesota’s farmers and agribusinesses to adopt new technology and best management practices that reduce emissions, sequester atmospheric carbon and even improve their finances. AgriGrowth supports science-based policy efforts that incentivize farmers, agribusiness and consumers to reduce their emissions, and reward them for steps taken to ameliorate the short and long-term impacts of climate change.

Immigration Reform

Comprehensive immigration reform is a phrase used by policymakers that often has vastly different meanings for different people. AgriGrowth encourages the Minnesota congressional delegation and the Administration to support immigration policies that help address the critical workforce needs of Minnesota farmers and food producers, while also recognizing the positive contributions that these individuals make to their communities. Without a significant increase in net migration into Minnesota, the state’s labor force will grow slower than it has in the past, meanings farmers and businesses will have an increasingly difficult time finding the hard-working, skilled employees needed to create and maintain a robust agricultural economy.

The existing H-2A visa program for seasonal agriculture workers does not meet the needs of Minnesota’s agricultural employers. A new program more reflective of today’s agriculture economy is needed to give employers greater access to immigrant workers for seasonal and year-round positions. Any new program should provide greater certainty to workers and employers alike. Agricultural wages are often higher than the federal minimum, yet farmers face uncertainty due to the barriers, delays and regulations in the current program.

Health Care

The lack of access to affordable health insurance is a top issue among farmers and agribusiness nationwide. In many cases, the rising costs of health care supplant concerns over access to credit, capital or land. According to a 2017 USDA-funded study, almost half of all farmers and ranchers are concerned they would have to sell some or all of their farm to cover health-related costs. With an average age of 58, farmers are vulnerable to higher health insurance premiums.

AgriGrowth encourages the Administration and Congress to consider the interests and concerns of U.S. farmers and agribusiness in any discussion of health care policy. The farming population is shrinking and getting older, and the federal government needs to ensure that young and beginning farmers are not deterred from careers in food and agriculture by the rising costs of health care.

Regulatory Reform

Minnesota’s agriculture and food sector is committed to adopting best practices and innovative technology to help protect the natural resources of our state and ensure a sustainable and safe food supply. A proliferation of new federal rules and requirements create uncertainty and add costs to farms, agribusiness and food companies.

AgriGrowth applauds the Administration’s proposed revisions to the 2015 proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule and supports the Administration’s efforts to streamline and reduce costly and duplicative regulations. AgriGrowth believes in improved water quality through sensible, science-based guidelines and looks forward to continuing to provide input into and supporting this process moving forward.

AgriGrowth is encouraged by federal efforts to review hours-of-service regulations for truck drivers. Our livestock industries require drive time flexibility to protect the welfare of animals in their care. Transporting livestock and other crops and agri-food products pose significantly different challenges than faced by the rest of the trucking industry, and federal recognition of these challenges would be welcomed.

To learn more about AgriGrowth’s public policy work, please contact our Director of Government and Member Relations, Patrick Murray at 651-238-0089; pmurray@agrigrowth.org.

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