It is difficult to gauge impact. A professional athlete’s statistics, for instance, may belie his true value to the team. His clubhouse contributions and ability to inspire greatness in other players may not be evident to fans, but those familiar with the team’s inner workings will have a better idea of the player’s worth.

In a similar way, all the impacts value-added projects have on the agricultural economy may not be evident at first. Yet the residual benefits of value-added processing affect many more segments of Minnesota’s economy than farming.

In 1998, more than 101,000 people earned their living from production agriculture. That is only about three percent of Minnesota’s employment. But include the number of people involved in ag processing and other ag-dependent industries and the amount of impact begins to emerge.

Value-added ag processing provides tens of thousands of jobs in Minnesota and adds billions to the economy. Add the construction, transportation, manufacturing and retail jobs that depend on agriculture, and it becomes clear how this industry impacts the rest of the state.

While the number of people directly involved in production agriculture has been declining for years, it is not difficult to see that Minnesota still depends heavily on agriculture. It is also not difficult to understand why continued investment in agriculture, and specifically value-added processing, is a key not only to the future of farming but to the long term health of Minnesota’s economy.