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U.S. now a net food importer: The state of farming in Minnesota

For the first time, the U.S. will become a net agricultural food importer in 2023 and no longer a net exporter. Waverly farmer says this should spark some concerns.

WAVERLY, Minn — For many of us, when you're out grocery shopping and picking out your fruit and veggies, you're not always thinking about where they came from. 

Where your food comes from is sparking concern for some local farmers... here's why...  

According to the USDA, for the first time the United States will become a net agricultural food importer in 2023 and no longer a net exporter.

Meaning we are now relying on other countries to feed us.

Farmer Jerry Untiedt from Untiedt's Vegetable Farm out of Waverly, Minnesota, says this should cause concern for everyone.

"We view us as a very important industry to this country and its somewhat of a food security situation that we are facing," said Untiedt, who knows all too well the work that goes into running his 1,500-acre farm west of the Twin Cities. 

"There's some issues out there that effect all of us, and you might say, 'Well, why does it effect us?' Because we are producing food for you to eat and if we can't produce enough food for you, that that can cause some serious problems," Untiedt said. 

It's not that the U.S. can't produce enough food. Untiedt says the problem, like many industries right now, is finding workers. This is one of the reasons why Untiedt made a recent trip to Washington D.C. to discuss his concerns with lawmakers, including Minnesota Senator Tina Smith.

"Congress does make these regulations, for instance, the type of workers that we are able to get since there is no domestic workforce, basically, left here," Untiedt said. 

Like many farms, Untiedt's has to bring in foreign workers through a federal visa program for seasonal labor, a process Jerry says comes with it's own challenges.

Sen. Tina Smith agrees, telling KARE 11 the immigration laws in the U.S. are broken.

"They don't work for people, they don't work for businesses and it is a shame that we can't get passed this partisanship in order to make the changes that Minnesota farmers need," she said. 

Untiedt says Minnesotans can help by supporting local. 

"Use your dollars that you spend as your voice to talk and buy fresh and local," he said. "I know a lot of times it is more expensive. I'm not going to deny that, and especially in the environment where we live in Minnesota, things can be very expensive, but it's because of our labor rules that the state regulates what we pay and how much we pay and when we pay, and that effects the cost."

Last year the guest worker visa program, the H-2A program reform, passed in the House but failed in the Senate.

Sen. Smith says the real sticking point with her Republican counterparts is for these guest workers to find a path to permanent status here in the states.


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