Computer terminals filled with markets data, agricultural news, and weather forecasts, GPS-led unmanned tractors – high technologies that have been adopted by American farmers to do their business and enhance their operations.
Minnesota is one of the leading agriculture states in America. According to the state’s Department of Natural Resources, prior to European settlement, more than 18 million acres (73.000 square km) of prairie covered Minnesota. With its fertile soil and nutritious grasses, the prairie became a natural base for an agricultural empire. Today, less than two percent of Minnesota’s native prairie remains. In the agricultural south of the state, corn and soybean fields stretch along both sides of the highway as far as the eye can see.
The industry has experienced an agriculture boom in recent years. Yet, in 2013, local farmer’s incomes dropped by 78 percent, and the rising costs combined with falling commodity prices took a heavy toll, according to a recent article in Minnesota’s daily Star Tribune. At the same time, the demand for food is expected to grow: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that by 2050 the world will need 70 percent more food for an additional 2.3 billion people.
Minnesota is currently home to 20 ethanol plants and one biobutanol plant. The state was the first to mandate the use of ethanol in their fuel supply and today state law requires that all gasoline sold in Minnesota contain 10 percent biofuel – the biofuel being exclusively ethanol, according to Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture.