Agriculture and food research, technologies, and practices

Minnesota’s higher education system needs more public investment in and a wider array of influences on its food and agriculture-related education, outreach, and research.

Minnesota’s growing season may be too brief and variable to produce enough fresh fruits and vegetables for local consumers.

Our bee population is at great risk, and we depend on bees to pollinate our crops.

Many consumers express concern about the extent of food waste, as well as the use of chemicals, technologies, and antibiotics in food production.

Farming practices and technologies should protect our animals, soil, air, and water.

Tribal communities lack influence over agricultural production practices and technologies that non-native farmers use within or adjacent to reservation borders.

Physical and financial infrastructure

Many farmers lack adequate physical and financial infrastructure on their farm and in their region for harvesting, processing, storing, and distributing nutritious food to nearby markets.

Farmers face significant financial risks. They have limited access to capital and financing; high labor, land, and equipment costs; and low rates of return for small and medium-sized family farms.

Tribal nations have historically had limited access to financing and USDA development funding for food and farming infrastructure.

Local Markets

Local wholesale and certain retail markets offer farmers low and decreasing prices.

Some farmers face insufficient access to certain markets.

Farmland Access and Preservation

In many places, there is not enough available, affordable farmland for farmers who want to produce nutritious food products for nearby markets.

A significant amount of Minnesota’s farmland may be permanently lost to development.

Farmers growing food for Minnesota markets face numerous challenges related to zoning and environmental regulations.

Farmer training and resources

Many farmers who grow healthy food for nearby communities can’t reliably afford health insurance, liability insurance, and specialty
crop insurance.

Some farmers need more information about existing resources to more effectively to sell their products in larger markets.

Many educational resources (such as classes and written materials) for farmers, food workers, and farm workers are only available in English.

Local, regional, state, and federal educational and legal resources for farmers and workers in food and farm-related jobs are not fully accessible, because they have limited hours of operation, staff capacity, and languages.

Many agricultural organizations, centers, clubs, groups, associations, and partnerships conduct their business only in English, making it difficult for new immigrant farmers to participate in these opportunities.

Materials about agricultural programs and regulations are only available in English, are hard to locate, and are created without adequate representation from new immigrant farmers.

Labor and pay

People who work in food and farm-related jobs often lack adequate pay and benefits.

Workplace and child labor laws are not always adequately enforced in food- and farm-related employment, and workers lack adequate access to legal counseling about labor issues.

Food and farm workers, farmers, and food businesses lack clear policies around freedom of association, collective bargaining, fair contracts, living wages, and conflict resolution.

Workers in food- and farm-related jobs often lack adequate whistleblower protections.

Some farms and nearby communities lack adequate, affordable worker housing, which increases worker illnesses, the spread of communicable diseases, and food safety risks.

Healthy Food and Agriculture Policy

State and federal agriculture and nutrition policies don’t sufficiently support access to safe, affordable, healthy food.

Federal agriculture and nutrition policy should be more effective at ensuring widespread availability of affordable, healthy food.

Minnesota lacks the economic development and planning at all scales that would strengthen small and medium-sized food and agricultural businesses and infrastructure.

Food Labeling, Regulations and Marketing

Current food labels do not fully address consumer concerns.

A lot of food marketing promotes unhealthy foods, particularly to children, which negatively influences healthy food preferences and purchases.

Tribes whose food systems incorporate traditional food preparation, gathering, and farming can often find that food safety regulations and protocols do not reflect their needs or tribal sovereignty.

Small or new healthy food businesses need a more flexible, integrated regulatory infrastructure to meet food safety and licensing requirements.

Regulations for community kitchens, farmers’ markets, urban agriculture, commercial zoning, parking, subdivision, land use, and related ordinances can inadvertently impede healthy food access.

Despite ongoing efforts, lack of resources, constraints in cross-agency communication, and inconsistencies in enforcement create barriers for healthy food businesses.

Influence and decision-making

Communities want greater involvement and influence over the design of their communities’ food environments.

Federal agriculture and nutrition policies do not reflect the needs and interests of a broad range of consumers.

Consolidation within food and agricultural industries results in concentrated decision-making power.