ST. PAUL, Minn. —Tuesday, March 19, is National Agriculture Day. This is a day to recognize the hard working men and women who produce the food, feed, fiber and fuel that generate more than $75 billion in economic activity every year in Minnesota. Our state is a leader in agricultural production, ranking in the top 10 states in cash receipts from our farms and in the export of farm products. Moreover, agriculture provides more than 340,000 jobs in Minnesota, and the state is home to many of the nation’s top agri-businesses.
Modern farming is a more complex field than ever, and University of Minnesota Extension keeps farmers up-to-date with best practices that help their bottom line and their stewardship of the land and water through various field days, on farm research, meetings and electronic media. Extension’s research-based information also reaches growers through the agricultural professionals they work with.
Minnesota farmers rely on the partnership of agricultural professionals–consultants, seed and fertilizer dealers, pesticide applicators and local Extension educators–to help them manage all aspects of their enterprise. These agricultural professionals in turn rely on Extension’s Institute for Agricultural Professionals to learn about the newest agricultural research and innovations.
For more than 20 years, the Institute has been a pioneer in providing hands-on opportunities to agricultural professionals with hands-on opportunities related to crop management, including an annual field school delivered at the University's Research and Outreach Centers, research updates offered at locations throughout Minnesota, and a crop pest management course that reaches hundreds of agricultural professionals as part of a trade show each December.
As Extension agronomist Jeff Gunsolus says, herbicide issues are in the forefront on farms today. Fewer chemicals are used on the farm when agricultural professionals guide farmers to the right herbicide on the right weed at the right time. Farmers’ resources are used more efficiently, weeds develop less resistance, and environmental impacts are reduced. It is a similar situation with managing insect pests, such as the soybean aphid.
According to a 2011 survey, agricultural professionals serve an average of 60 clients each, having an impact on some 48,000 acres. Just one of the Institute’s educational programs impacts 4.3 million acres across the state and surrounding regions.
The education Extension offers to agricultural professionals ensures growers that those advising them are trained on current topics and best practices. Extension’s successful model has been emulated nationwide because it multiplies the impact of research and education, and it serves the agricultural community in the way that works best for farmers today.
Of course, Extension continues to support agriculture and rural communities through our 4-H and other leadership programs.
On this National Agriculture Day, let us honor those who put food on our table, clothes on our back and fuel for our vehicles. We at University of Minnesota Extension will continue to keep up with farmers’ changing needs through innovations we have developed by working with the agriculture community over many years.
Bev Durgan is the Dean of University of Minnesota Extension.