On June 17th, 2020, AgriGrowth hosted a panel discussion titled The USMCA and Agriculture: Partnership, Progress, and Prosperity. Special guests included Senators Klobuchar and Smith, Governor Walz and Kirsten Hillman and Martha Barcena, the Canadian and Mexican Ambassadors to the United States.
This panel highlighted the need for transparent and open trade between North American countries, as leaders stressed the importance of the regional market to the well being of each of the country’s economies. This importance can be seen through the increase in trade under NAFTA, and the current balanced agriculture trade levels between North American countries. Senators Klobuchar and Smith each voiced support for the USMCA, and for continued work between agricultural leaders in all three countries during and after the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. Ambassadors Hillman and Barcena echoed support for the agreement, citing updated provisions from NAFTA as beneficial for each country,bringing the USMCA into force as a modern agreement for modern technology and nations.
Don Brown,managing director of government relations at Cargill, provided six key improvements in the USMCA over NAFTA:
· Continued and new market access
· Reduction of non-tariff barriers
· Facilitation of faster information sharing
· Improved trade standards for biotechnology and provisions for forthcoming technology
· Provisions for digital trade
· Prevention/Mitigation against higher tariffs
Minnesota’s farmer leaders, Thom Peterson, Gary Wertish and Kevin Paap, wrapped up the panel discussion with optimism for the future of trade relations, the need for a resilient food system and the commitment of Minnesota farmers to bettering these North American partnerships. The USMCA provides new and updated opportunities for Minnesota agriculture to not only weather the current storm(s), but to build increased resiliency and competitiveness into the Minnesota food system.
Ag Talent Panel
AgriGrowth’s June 24th panel, titled Resilience in Agriculture and Food :Matching Talent to Need, provided an in-depth look at the increasing need for young talent in agriculture, along with current efforts to train, recruit and retain talent in the Minnesota agricultural industry.
Ms. Broberg highlighted the estimated talent shortage – 317,000 jobs by 2050 – and illustrated the need for employers in Minnesota think strategically about talent recruitment and retention, as well as broader efforts to attract youth to opportunities in the agriculture and food industry. No matter the niche market businesses may occupy, effects of the talent shortage will be felt across the food and agricultural industry.
Currently, the MN Department of Education has 200 agricultural programs, 270 agricultural educators and approximately 35,000 students, says Zane Sheehan. Currently, the number and size of agricultural programs in Minnesota is growing, causing a shortage of agricultural educators; Industry support for agricultural education, where students are first exposed to opportunities in the agricultural industry, is vital for a sustainable recruitment and education pipeline.
Keith Olander and Brad Schloesser highlighted efforts of the MN State system in educating students for the needs of the food and agriculture industry. Their role is to be a catalyst and connection with career influencers – agricultural educators, professors, counselors, parents, etc. – and to be a resource for information regarding career demand and compensation. Their positioning, along with MN State graduating ~4000 graduates per year in agriculture, allows them to act as a bridge between agricultural businesses needing talent, and students looking for viable career opportunities.
The Minnesota food and agriculture industry is continuing to grow and outstrip the supply of talent; investing in education and working closely to align industry practice with teaching standards is key in closing the talent gap and fostering a sustainable agricultural economy in Minnesota.
- Kegan Zimmermann is a a University of Minnesota CFANS student, FFA leader, and guest blogger for AgriGrowth.