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New survey shows Minnesota corn farmers are cautiously optimistic

Minnesota corn farmers remain cautiously optimistic about the outlook for corn farming but were slightly less confident when asked about the general direction of agriculture overall, according to a recent independent survey commissioned by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA).

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When asked if corn farmers will be better off, worse off or about the same three years from now, 19 percent said better, 31 percent worse and 47 percent the same. Corn farmers were asked the same question in 2012, and 17 percent responded with better, 28 percent worse and 49 percent the same.

“Overall, we’re proud of where we are today despite obstacles and challenges over the years. I think the general outlook remains positive, but we have to continue addressing the challenges out there, both on the farm and away from the farm,” said Ryan Buck, a corn farmer in Goodhue and MCGA president.

Corn farmers were less optimistic when it came to the overall direction of agriculture. Fifty-four percent of respondents said things in the ag sector are generally going in the right direction, down from 69 percent in 2012. Thirty-five percent said the ag sector was on the wrong track, up from 18 percent in 2012.

“I think a major reason for the increased pessimism was the unnecessarily long and partisan battle over the new farm bill and recent attacks on ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said John Mages, a corn farmer in Belgrade who chairs MCGA’s government relations team.

When corn farmers were asked how satisfied they were with Minnesota’s corn check-off program, 87 percent responded that they were either somewhat or very satisfied. That’s up from 78 percent in 2012. Eighty-nine percent said they approved of the job MCGA was doing on their behalf, up eight points from 2012.

The corn check-off is a voluntary, self-imposed fee on each bushel of corn at the time of first point of sale. Funds are used for research, marketing and promotion of Minnesota corn and corn by-products.

“Corn farmers understand how valuable it is to speak out in a collective voice instead of only acting as individuals,” said Jerry Demmer, who farms in Clarks Grove and chairs the Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council (MCR&PC). “Corn farmers also see the value in using check-off funds to support research projects that boost yields and outreach efforts that connect with non-farmers.”

The survey also asked non-farmers for their opinion on corn farming

and agriculture.

Ninety-two percent of non-farmers had a positive viewpoint of farmers in Minnesota, up 10 percent from 2011. Thirty-one percent said farming in Minnesota has gotten better in the last 10 years, up from 25 percent in 2011.

Non-farmers listed producing safe and healthy food as the most important issue for farming in Minnesota. Minimizing the use of chemicals and keeping farms small or family farms came in second and third.

“Big city or small town, suburban mom or blue-collar construction worker, everyone is our customer,” said Noah Hultgren, a farmer in Raymond. “The survey results show that using check-off funds to build a positive image for corn farming is paying off, but there is always room for improvement.”

The corn farmer portion of the survey involved 300 corn farmers interviewed by telephone from January 21-27, 2014. The margin of error is 5.8 percent. The non-farmer portion of the survey involved 500 adults interviewed by telephone from December 9-12, 2013 and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

MCGA has almost 7,000 members and represents the interests of more than 25,000 corn farmers throughout Minnesota. MCR&PC administers the investment of Minnesota’s corn check-off.

The shared mission of both organizations is to identify and promote opportunities for corn farmers, while building better connections with the non-farming public.

To learn more about MCGA and MCR&PC, visit and follow @mncorn on Twitter.