A war on agriculture would hit Minnesota and its neighbors hardest

In November, my colleague Isaac Orr wrote about the Dutch government’s “war on agriculture“:

The government in the Netherlands is planning to conduct forced buyouts of 3,000 Dutch farms with the intention of closing them down to cut nitrogen emissions in half to meet the country’s climate goals. As many as 11,200 farms will have to close, and another 17,600 farmers will have to significantly downsize their livestock operations to meet these draconian targets.

If such policies were pursued in the United States the harm would be felt disproportionately by Minnesota and its neighbors.

Agriculture and GDP

The number one state for agriculture in the United States is California. In 2021, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) numbers show that its ‘Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting’ (agriculture) sector accounted for 18.5% of the United States’ total. But California has the largest economy in the United States and its agricultural sector accounts for just 1.1% of the state’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), only the 19th highest share in the country.

Figure 1 shows the fifty states and District of Columbia ranked by the share of their total GDP accounted for by the agricultural sector in 2021. It isn’t surprising, perhaps, that Midwestern states are at the top: indeed, three of Minnesota’s neighbors — South Dakota (8.2%), North Dakota (6.4%), and Iowa (5.6%) — are in the top four states for the agricultural share of their economy. Altogether, Minnesota and its neighbors account for 16.6% of America’s agricultural GDP, compared to just 4.8% of its total GDP.

Figure 1: Agriculture as a share of GDP, 2021

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Even so, it is notable that, even in raw numbers, where California is top, Iowa has the second biggest agricultural sector in the United States and Minnesota ranks sixth.

Agriculture and employment

The same is largely true if we look at the BEA’s numbers for “Farm employment.”

Figure 2 shows the fifty states and District of Columbia ranked by the share of their total employment accounted for by farm employment in 2021. It shows that the three states with the highest share of total employment in farm employment are Minnesota’s neighbors — North Dakota (5.2%), South Dakota (5.2%), and Iowa (4.3%). While Minnesota and its four neighboring states account for 5.3% of total employment in the United States, they account for 12.1% of farm employment.

Figure 2: Farm employment as a share of total employment, 2021

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

These numbers show that if the federal government decided to pursue anti-agriculture policies like those seen in the Netherlands in the name of fighting climate change, it is the Midwest that would be hit hardest. We must be on guard.