Ag commissioner Frederickson comments on Dayton's state of state

ST. PAUL - Gov. Mark Dayton stayed true to the themes of his campaign in his first State of the State speech.

ST. PAUL - Gov. Mark Dayton stayed true to the themes of his campaign in his first State of the State speech.

Dayton delivered the address Feb. 9 before a joint session of the state House and Senate.

He unveiled his five-point plan for future prosperity, calling for investment in more jobs, better education, improved transportation, and the health of the state's communities and environment. He also called for investment in the transformation of government services.

"Investments require faith and trust," Dayton said. "People invest in the future only if they believe in that future. … They invest only if they believe that others will do what is necessary for those investments to succeed."

Several times during the speech he stressed working together to succeed. Together, Dayton, a DFLer, and the Republican-controlled Legislature must reach a deal to resolve the state's projected $6.2 billion budget deficit. Dayton releases his budget Feb. 15. The Legislature is opposed to any tax increases, while Dayton strongly hinted in his speech that his budget will include income tax increases.


Agriculture commissioner Dave Frederickson watched the speech from the balcony in the center of the House chamber.

"I thought the governor's speech was well done," Frederickson said. "He really, really wants to reach across the aisle."

There was lots of talk about cooperating and the cooperative spirit, he said. Dayton mentioned the bipartisan agreement he and the Legislature have on speeding up the state's permitting process.

He thanked the lawmakers who are working with him to move the permitting legislation forward.

"May it characterize our cooperative spirit throughout the rest of the session," Dayton said.

Frederickson said the governor is on target in trying to encourage cooperation. He said that's the message voters sent in November. They want lawmakers to reach across the aisle and fix problems.

The governor didn't call him and ask what he wanted him to include in his speech, Frederickson said, but they have been talking about broader issues over the last three weeks or so.

While the governor didn't mention many specifics about agriculture in the speech, Frederickson said agriculture is interspersed all through what Dayton talked about.


He talked about jobs, education, transportation and community, all of which are vital to rural Minnesota, Frederickson said.

It's difficult to mention every sector of the economy, Frederickson said. The governor has been focused on the struggling sectors and agriculture is doing pretty well right now.

He talked about transportation, which is so important to agriculture, Frederickson said.

"Minnesota suffers today from the failed legacy of 20 years of declining investments in our highways, roads and bridges; in our public transit systems; and in other critical infrastructure," Dayton said.

A constant effort to maintain and upgrade the transportation network across the state is needed, Frederickson said.

Dayton said he's asked the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board and the Tourism Office to work closely with businesses in those industries.

Frederickson confirmed that he's been asked to work with those leaders. He's also working with Dr. Edward Ehlinger, health department commissioner, who is in the same office complex. Together, the leaders will improve government efficiencies.

In his speech, the governor called for "transformational change to improve the productivity of government."


"The opportunities are huge and the savings can be enormous," Dayton said. "This reform will succeed best if we work in partnership with our state employees."

Dayton spoke two bright spots in the state's economy - both ag-related: The recent groundbreaking for North Star Agri Industries in Hallock and AGCO's expansion in Jackson.

Dayton said he stands ready to go anywhere where there are jobs to be gained for Minnesota. To that end, he's planning a trade mission to China for late July or early August.

The agriculture department is making contacts with folks in China, Frederickson said. The governor will lead the mission, he said, and it will include 30 to 40 people.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture earlier this year hosted a 25-member China Soybean Purchase Agreement Delegation. Dayton visited with them for a couple hours, Frederickson said. Following the visit, the group inked a $6.8 billion trade deal.

Frederickson wouldn't divulge any budget details in advance of the governor's announcement, but he said the governor has been asking really good questions. Agriculture is just a sliver of the state's budget, coming in at just a shade over a quarter percent of the state budget or 0.26 percent.

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