Right here in our home state of Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz is attempting to mandate electric-powered vehicles, using California’s standards as a guide to limit consumer choice and adversely impact our farming communities. 

For several reasons, this is not a sound, nor practical policy to enforce. The mandate would be extremely detrimental to the agriculture community, which is a large driver of Minnesota’s economy. As the fourth largest ethanol producer in the country, Minnesota supports nearly 19 thousand full time jobs in the state and generates $1.5 billion worth of income for households. If California’s mandate is enforced in other states, the U.S. net farm income would decrease an estimate $27 billion, according to an Agricultural Retailers Association study released in October 2020. 

not a one-size fits all

Confronting our country’s climate needs is not a one-size-fits-all solution and what is practical in one state, may not apply in another. California and Minnesota are vastly different states and have different priorities from an environmental standpoint. Climate change is a real threat and should be addressed on a global level, as opposed to enforcing a short-term action that will harm many American families, especially the farmers in our state. 

As the United States rebounds from a global pandemic, we should not be applauding policies that alienate an entire business sector, and mandates people to buy cars that are more expensive during an already fragile economy. In a poll conducted by the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association, only 5 percent of Minnesotans say they are very likely to purchase an electric vehicle when they make their next purchase, citing concerns about the higher cost, performance in the cold, and a lack of charging stations. 

Again, Minnesota is not California. As a farmer, we should promote the renewable fuel sources we currently grow–biodiesel and ethanol. These are fuel sources California does not grow in the capacity Minnesota does.

Corn Harvest
Corn Harvest view from the Combine

If there is not a current demand for electric-powered vehicles, it should not be forced upon Minnesota’s residents. Under the new mandate, dealerships would have more than 18,000 electric vehicles dropped annually onto their lots, while they are currently only selling an estimated 2,000 electric-vehicles a year. To be clear, I am not discouraging the purchase of electric vehicles; I simply believe it should be a choice or even incentive, rather than a government-directed mandate.

no transportation mandates for farmers

Mandating the consumption of electric vehicles will place further burdens on farmers who rely on other forms of transportation.  The pickup trucks that farmers use to haul crops to the market will be end up being more expensive.  In fact, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MCPA) – the Governor’s body leading the charge on this rule – acknowledges that costs will go up, anywhere between $800 and $2,500 more per vehicle for consumers.  Why is it fair for Minnesota farmers to pay the price for market-distorted more expensive cars?

As for the politics of this scheme, our governor has unfortunately manipulated the political process to drive through this agenda (pun intended). Governor Walz is currently attempting to bypass the state legislature and force through the mandate by administrative rulemaking. By going through administrative processes, the MPCA can circumvent the legislature’s input and hold Minnesotans to standards set by California. This procedure will deny our state’s elected officials the opportunity to represent constituents like me through the democratic process.

As the comment period is currently underway, our state needs to come together and urge the governor and others in power to rethink forcing this mandate upon the people of Minnesota. Alternatively, the details of the policy should be fleshed out through the proper legislative process where the Minnesota legislature, which represents the communities that will be impacted, is included. This would also give Minnesota stakeholders, including the farming community, an opportunity to be heard and voice our concerns. 

Corn that is used as ethanol

ever-changing climate-friendly farming practices

Over the years, agriculture has made changes to be more efficient and climate-friendly, and this will continue in the years to come. However, this mandate is not the answer for Minnesotans, and I believe I speak for many fellow farmers by asking to please rethink this mandate and its impact on the farming community, because we cannot afford another setback.

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One Comment

  1. A couple of clarifications. No one will be required to buy an electric vehicle, they will simply be more available. Dealerships will be required to make available EV and hybrid vehicles that previously were not available in Minnesota. Yes it is too bad producers expanded their corn production for ethanol. Corn ethanol has always been a bad investment. It takes nearly as much energy to produce as you get out of it. It has always been dependent on blending requirements at the federal level. It has lead to producers tilling land that should not be in production.

    It is too bad many producers have been fed this line. Addressing climate change will open up new opportunities for those 19,000 jobs indicated. And perhaps a better way to produce ethanol is from cellulose that can be extracted from grasses. These grasses can be perennial (which will irritate the seed companies) and provide opportunities for harvestable buffer strips which can add the benefit of cleaner water.

    None of the avenues forward to address climate change are intended to hurt a sector of our economy. But action needs to take place.

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