Change is inevitable.
Change is continuous.
Change is difficult.
Right now, AURI is facing the difficult. Over four of the past five years AURI has contended with declining financial support from the State of Minnesota. The most recent – and most painful – blows have led to significant changes in our organization.
In an effort to deal with a looming state budget deficit, the legislature reduced AURI’s funding by nearly 60 percent. For a small organization with limited resources, those reductions have forced major changes that impact not only AURI, but our ability to serve Minnesota agriculture.
Over the past several years, we have managed budget reductions by not filling positions vacated by retirement or job turnover; the duties were parceled out to other staff or simply set aside. We have closed two offices, Morris and St. Paul, making AURI staff less accessible. We have also reduced staff and closed lab facilities to deal with the reduced funding.
Cost cutting is only one component of dealing with change. We are also streamlining our activities, focusing on our strengths and eliminating activities that may not significantly impact Minnesota agriculture. We have reprioritized the efforts of all staff members, as well as AURI programs. Services are being reduced, consolidated and, in some cases, eliminated.
We may not be able to assist with as many projects, but we will continue to focus on activities that have the greatest impact on the largest number of Minnesota producers. We will continue to focus on researching crop-based fuels, developing new uses for ag coproducts such as processing waste or ethanol sidestreams, as well as meat processing and product development. These areas provide opportunities to further develop Minnesota’s agricultural processing industry.
AURI staff and programs will critically evaluate all potential projects to ensure that resources are directed to projects that have the maximum benefit to Minnesota agriculture. As such, partnering with commodity groups, producer and farm associations and other organizations will be key to developing successful value-added projects.
Our mission is to improve Minnesota’s rural economy through the development of new uses and markets for the state’s agricultural commodities. Even in times of turmoil, that will not change.
AURI is hardly the first organization dealt a difficult hand. Like others before us, AURI is rolling up our collective sleeves and meeting the challenge head on. We are doing so by making tough choices, prioritizing our efforts and focusing on what we do well.