The Minnesota Board of Animal Health and the state’s department of agriculture -– two agencies with differing missions but ultimately like-minded goals -– have been stiffly challenged in recent decades.
The agencies have met the challenges and Minnesotans have been well served by them.
The Board of Animal Health confronted the H5N2 avian flu virus in 2015. The outbreak threatened millions of chickens and turkeys in Iowa and Minnesota and attacked flocks in 10 other states. Poultry barns were depopulated, and the industry -- so important to the state’s economy -– was in crisis.
The health board, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and producer organizations helped educate producers about stepped-up biosecurity measures and educated consumers about the disease.
In 2019, the swine industry and the animal health board face a threat from the devastating African swine fever, which is spreading across Southeast Asia and Africa. The National Pork Board and others warn that if the virus reaches U.S. shores, losses to producers could mount to billions of dollars.
The health agency, working in partnership with the University of Minnesota diagnostic laboratory and Iowa State University’s Veterinarian Diagnostic Laboratory in Ames, are partnering in the stop-the-virus effort.
The board also is involved in emergency preparedness should other livestock and poultry diseases strike. The intentional introduction of diseases within U.S. borders remains a concern. Mock drills have been held should a poultry or livestock disease outbreak occur.
The Board of Animal Health is recognized as an efficiently and effectively administrated agency.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has consistently provided leadership on issues that are important to farmers and non-farmers alike.
MDA’s role in protecting the environment through a variety of efforts is an underappreciated success story. Its actions are sometimes controversial -– farmers say it butts in where it doesn't belong and some in the general public think the agency isn’t doing enough.
The Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan is an example of MDA’s good work. The plan’s goal is to minimize nitrogen’s fertilizer’s impact on the state’s groundwater. The plan, which was implemented in 1990 and updated in 2015, brings farmers and crop advisers together to find solutions to high nitrate levels found in some watersheds throughout the state.
The management plan created a township well-water testing program to identify wells polluted with high nitrate levels.
The MDA has also conducted pesticide monitoring in watersheds since 1985. More than 1,000 samples are taken from groundwater, lakes and streams, and from urban and rural areas annually.
Involving landowners and the public in decision-making strengthens Minnesota’s ability to protect public and private landowner interests.
MDA also educates about emerald ash borer, monitors questionable plant sales, and conducts food-safety inspections.
While Minnesotans are known to question the effectiveness of other agencies within state government, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture -– in both Republican and DFL administrations -– has proven itself to be an efficient agency that works to protect citizens and the environment.
Minnesotans are rightly proud of the state’s quality of life. The Board of Animal Health and the MDA have important roles in maintaining that quality. Both departments execute their roles in admirable ways.