Editorial — U of M announcement is welcome for agriculture
The University of Minnesota’s announcement that it has a plan to provide new resources and programs for organic and sustainable agriculture is welcome news. The U of M’s move is the direct result of more funding received for agricultural research and outreach from the 2007 Legislature.
Hopefully, the Legislature’s actions will bring more research and outreach efforts to the increasing number of food producers who are trying to find their own niche in production agriculture. Certainly, organic production and demand for organic food is growing in Minnesota and nationally. There has long been a concern that the U of M has not focused enough on this area of agriculture.
Indeed, the land-grant university and others around the country have suffered budget hits that make their originial agricultural research mission tougher to conduct. The risk exists that a limited ability to conduct unbiased research at the university level will hurt all food producers.
The new resources that will be available for sustainable and organic agriculture is impressive.
A faculty position will be established in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences that will be focused on organic and sustainable food systems. The alternative livestock coordinator position at the university will be an ongoing position with the Extension Service. The staffer will provide information and help to livestock producers.
A faculty position at Lamberton’s Southwest Research and Outreach Center will be devoted to organic crops and funding will be available for at least two graduate assistantships in organic research and Extension.
An organic dairy herd will be housed at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris.
A lawmaker who helped get the additional funding for the initiatives sums up the situation well.
"This is a good start on meeting the growing needs of organic and sustainable farmers,’’ said Rep. David Bly of Northfield. "Consumers are demanding this food, paying a premium for it, and farmers are profiting. That’s a model we want to promote.’’
The U of M looks like it is poised to run with this opportunity.
If it does so, it will serve Minnesota’s ag industry well.