Minnesota’s abundant natural resources and rich agricultural assets attracted settlers to the state centuries ago. They also contributed to the state’s growth and prosperity. Communities sprang up around the state as agriculture’s economic engine drove Minnesota. Jobs and rural development followed and many of Minnesota’s largest and best-known companies grew from agricultural roots.

While the number of people actively involved in farming has decreased, the industry has tremendous staying power. Economic impact figures show that agriculture remains the second largest employer in Minnesota. However, nearly 80 percent of all agricultural jobs exist off-farm in areas such as distribution, services and processing.

Agriculture has long been a cornerstone industry, supporting other sectors including manufacturing, transportation, construction, banking, real estate and others. Although nearly three fourths of the state’s population lives in urban areas, they are directly impacted by the health of the agricultural industry.

There is no question the agricultural landscape has changed over time, but what hasn’t altered is agriculture’s significance in rural economic development. Over the years, AURI has been involved with innovations that have had far-reaching impact — not only on agriculture, but rural communities and the state. These innovations have spun off jobs and economic activity beyond an individual business.

Agricultural processing, including innovations in biofuels, bio-based products, food and coproduct utilization will continue to spark economic development in rural communities. It is vital in difficult economic times that we focus on what is proven to spawn economic growth. Agriculture has a long history of economic importance and we firmly believe it will play a starring role in rural economic development and resurgence.