Holding Minnesota together from the ground up


More statistics released May 29 offer evidence that Minnesota’s traumatized economy would be in even worse shape if it wasn’t for its large agricultural sector.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said Lake Region (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan) farmers employed 62,000 farm workers during an annual survey week in April. That was an 11 percent employment increase from the same survey period a year ago — making agriculture one of a pitiful few industries to register year-over-year employment gains in the past year.

Farm workers today cover a wide range of skills and expertise, ranging from basic field and livestock chores on up to sophisticated farm management expertise. In any event, NASS found the average hourly wage in the Lake Region was $11.18 per hour, down 37 cents per hour from a year ago, but still above the national average last month of $10.83 per hour.

The Minnesota office of NASS noted that Minnesota had warmer than normal temperatures that encouraged fieldwork during the April survey period. This could account for some of the increase in employment.

Other data released May 29 show Minnesota agriculture in a productive mode. March/April milk production was up 3.3 percent in Minnesota, to 776 million pounds of milk; and layers on Minnesota chicken farms produced 231 million eggs in April, one million more than in the same month last year.

None of this adds up to an economic recovery for the state. But agriculture, at least, is moving in the right direction.