Farmers and ranchers in Minnesota are an optimistic breed. You have to be to farm here. The weather that brings us the water and sunshine, and makes our crops grow, can turn on you in an instant with tornados, hail or early snow.
But we are so good at growing corn, soybeans and a host of other important crops that we've learned to manage whatever Mother Nature puts before us and increase yields year-over-year.
Record-breaking yields are a testament to the ability of Minnesota farmers to grow high-quality crops. We do this season after season, even as input costs for things like equipment, fertilizer and fuel continue to skyrocket while prices continue to fall. Today, we have a lot of inventory, especially in corn and soybeans, but not a lot of options to sell our crops for a fair price.
I worry that if something doesn't change soon, rural and agricultural Minnesota could disappear. We've seen farms on the auction block over and over again as the younger generation decides it's more lucrative to find work in the cities than take the risks of running the family farm.
A decline in agriculture would be a disaster for Minnesota. We export $6.9 billion in agricultural goods each year and support nearly 60,000 jobs.
And the importance of trade in that agricultural economy? Forty-eight percent of our agricultural trade is with Mexico and Canada. And, 8.1 percent of farm jobs are tied to trade with those nations.
We need Congress to open and expand markets for the crops we grow. Being the optimistic breed that we are, we see the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade agreement as a lifeline. USMCA creates a strong way forward to help our farms remain sustainable and strengthen our communities.
USMCA, signed by President Trump and his counterparts in both nations last year, replaced the old NAFTA agreement with important improvements in trade. The deal helps Minnesota by supercharging Minnesota's ag trade opportunities, particularly in dairy, poultry, eggs, soybeans, corn and other goods. It rights a lot of wrongs. It's the right solution at the right time.
I urge Congress to call for a vote on USMCA today and ratify it now. It has broad support across Minnesota's farming community, and it has support in Congress. We know that Congress will back farmers and ranchers if given a chance to vote on the deal.
Having it in place will keep Minnesota farmers optimistic about the future.
- Bill Zurn, Callaway
(Bill Zurn grows soybeans, corn, sugarbeets, wheat and alfalfa near Callaway, where he farms with his wife, Karolyn, and sons Eric and Nick.
He is a director for the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council)