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Ken Warner: The importance of agriculture innovation

There is no better demonstration of the importance of Minnesota’s agricultural sector then during the fall harvest. Given nearly half of our state is dedicated to farmland, it’s no wonder that main streets around the state are busy with activity. The harvest is also a chance for farmers to share knowledge, learn new farming techniques and better prepare for the future during uncertain times.

The hard truth is that the ag economy has been challenged in recent years. While most updated forecasts from USDA show a measured outlook for the rest of 2017, improvement must be accelerated to benefit Minnesota’s farms, many of which have been operating at or near a loss for too long.

New ideas are needed to not only reinvigorate farmers’ processes, generate higher yields, and help farms operate more efficiently than ever before, but also to better protect farmers against unpredictable weather and altering varieties of pests and weeds.

The private sector consistently spends a substantial amount of money in research and development to create exciting products to make consumers’ lives better and find solutions to age-old problems.

Agriculture shouldn’t be an exception – whether it’s creating new seed traits that generate larger, healthier yields, the integration of big data solutions with modern-day farming, or the introduction of more automated farming equipment to help reduce operational costs.

These types of modernizations are especially pertinent as the overall marketplace continues to shift towards a more globalized food supply.

Just by walking through any Minnesota ag show, it’s easy to see that many of the latest farming technologies are developed by leading ag companies. Their commitment to expanding research and development operations, combined with our farmers’ drive and knowledge, will be the pinnacle for the future of Minnesota agriculture.

Unfortunately, ag companies face many obstacles to bringing new products and tools to market – slowing down the amount of time it takes for developing critical solutions to farmers’ most vital issues.

Mergers and acquisitions of ag companies, which allows them to combine knowledge and resources, is one clear solution to this issue. For instance, the upcoming acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer will foster an environment that rewards and spurs the development of groundbreaking technology that directly benefits our farmers, not to mention the significant $8 billion investment in the U.S. that will boost our economy.

While agriculture is typically seen as traditional Americana, its continued success as an industry derives from being forwardthinking. For Minnesotan farms to remain a leader in global agriculture, we must constantly look for ways to remain one step ahead of the next great idea: including supporting the upcoming acquisition of Monsanto.

Not only will this benefit our hard-working farmers working to overcome current ag problems, but also future generations as well.

Ken Warner is president of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.