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Siting & Planning
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Facts About Livestock Odor
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Raw Milk in Minnesota
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Best Management Practices
BMPs for Nitrogen Fertilizer Use in Minnesota
Non-Pesticide Voluntary Best Management Practices
Voluntary Pesticide Best Management Practices
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Conservation Funding Guide
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Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
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Assessing the Soil System
Conservation Funding Guide
The Status of Organic Agriculture
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Food, Dairy, Meat & Egg Inspection
MDA's Role in Preventing Antibiotic Resistance
Fruit & Vegetable Inspection/Audit Program
Custom Exempt Meat Processing
Wholesale Produce Dealers Licensing
Hunter Harvested Venison Donation Program
Licensing, Certifications, Permits & Registrations
Ag Chemicals, Fertilizers & Pesticides
Agricultural Liming Materials
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Golf Course Pesticide Applicator Requirements
Manure Analysis Proficiency (MAP)
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Private Pesticide Applicator
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Animals & Livestock
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Division License Types
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Food, Dairy, Meat & Eggs
Venison Donation Program
Fruit & Vegetable Inspection Audit Program
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Certified Firewood Dealers in Minnesota
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Alien Farm Law
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Insects & Pests
Asian Longhorned Beetle
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Emerald Ash Borer Program
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Potato Cyst Nematode
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All About the MDA
> History of the MDA
History of the MDA
Minnesota State Dairy Commission, a forerunner for the Department of Agriculture, was created in 1885 for the limited purpose of prohibiting the sale of adulterated milk and the sale of oleomargarine. The Commission was started with one department head, one assistant and one clerk who doubled as a chemist. The Commission budget was $6,000.
Law regulating sale of oleomargarine was passed. This was the first law in Minnesota regulating food and drink.
The Grain Inspection Law was passed on March 5, 1885. It established the inspection, weighing and registration divisions and provided for licensing of terminal warehouses.
Supporting laws were passed and oleomargarine law was sustained by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Food laws were amended to require the furnishing of reports to the Commissioner by all creameries; cheese factories, dairies, and peddlers and vendors of milk; and provided for the establishment of a laboratory to examine and analyze milk, butter, and cheese to determine purity. This was the first movement to secure dairy statistics.
Cheese factories operating in the state were required to register with the commissioner.
Two veterinary surgeons were appointed to the Commission in response to the outbreak of contagious pluro pneumonia.
The Commission’s name was changed to the State Dairy and Food Commission and was given authority to regulate all food products.
Two chemists were hired.
Dealers in milk were licensed by the Commission.
Food laws were passed prohibiting use of cottonseed oil in food products; regulating baking powder, vinegar, and lard; and prohibiting the adulteration of spirituous and vinegar liquors.
State gave up trying to ban oleomargarine sales completely. Oleomargarine could be sold if it was labeled as such and colored bright pink.
Pure Milk and Dairy Products Law required all vendors of milk to pay the Commission one dollar to procure a license for sale of milk in cities over 2,000.
Cheese instructor to be employed five months per year during the cheese making season was added to the commission.
Sale of honey made from cane syrup, and candy were regulated.
Commission’s duties were expanded to include inspection of all milk sold in the state to creameries and private families and prevention of importation of non-conforming dairy products.
Noxious weed law was passed which declared certain weeds nuisances and required private owners to destroy such weeds. State weed control dates back to 1872 when the first Canada thistle law was enacted by the legislature.
Honey standards were established.
Commission name was changed to the Minnesota Dairy and Food Department.
Jellies, spices, condiments and milk preservatives were added to pure food regulations.
Creamery associations and corporations were required to file reports with the Department.
First Minnesota law regulating non-food products was passed. Linseed oil that did not meet certain purity standards was prohibited from sale. Law provided that the product should be sold under its true name and in vessels bearing the proper stamp describing it as pure linseed oil – raw, or pure linseed oil – boiled.
Sale of flax was regulated.
Legislation was passed that provided penalties for the manipulation of the Babcock Test. Test was used to determine butterfat in milk and cream.
Sale of adulterated, misbranded, or improperly labeled paint, varnish, paint solvent and oil solvent was prohibited.
Department jurisdiction over preservatives was extended from milk products to include all foods.
The legislature permitted establishment of grain inspection and weighing services at out-state locations in addition to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.
Department issued its first “Commission rulings” after powers had been broadly expanded. Department began establishing general policy statements rather than administering laws on an ad hoc basis.
Minnesota Pure Food Laws were enacted, codifying all prior food laws.
The National Pure Food Law was passed, which gave the Department authority to seize shipments of goods sent into the state and to hold them until samples could be taken and analyzed. Department analyzed samples of food that grocers shipped in by mail order houses.
Department was given responsibility for inspection of the state’s new canning industry.
Food standards and labeling rules were adopted for all food products.
Operators of the Babcock Test were required to get a license from the Department.
Ten inspectors were added to the staff.
Three laws were passed providing for purity of paints.
Department was responsible for enforcement of all provisions of the chemical compounds legislation.
Department reported its first deficit of $5,000.
Inspector of apiaries was added to the staff to work on the suppression of contagious diseases among bees.
Sanitary food law was passed which gave the department general inspection duties for food and food related establishments.
First law passed that regulated sale and distribution of cigarettes in the state. The law forbid sale of cigarettes to minors. Department had authority to enforce this law until 1939 when authority was transferred to the Department of Taxation.
The United States Department of Agriculture established official grade standards for corn, effective July 1, 1914.
Fraudulent advertising act was passed which prohibited misleading statements or suggestions in advertising matter.
The United States Grain Standards Act became effective December 1, 1916. Federal Standards cost the grain inspection division $20,000 for new equipment and required more inspectors.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture created. The department’s main concern was to promote all Minnesota Agriculture – not just dairy products.
Nursery inspection was transferred from the University of Minnesota to the Department.
Potato and seed inspection services started.
Commissioner was directed to prepare account books for farms.
Commissioner received broad authority to promulgate rules and regulations to enforce all food laws, for the purpose of preventing fraud and deception in the manufacture, use, sale and transportation of food, and for the purpose of protecting and preserving the public health.
Licensing, inspection, and sanitation standards for creameries and beverage plants enacted.
Cold Storage Law was passed to license and to regulate persons, firms, or corporations operating cold storage warehouses for preservation of farm produce and foods.
Division of Cooperative Accounting was created.
Minnesota crop reporting service was created as a cooperative effort with USDA.
Authority to license state public produce warehouses and warehousemen was transferred from the Railroad and Warehouse Commission to the Department.
Noxious Weed Law was amended giving commissioner authority to enforce regulations to eradicate noxious weeds from agricultural land and other land in the state.
Commissioner was authorized to protect certain wild flowers — including the state flower.
Bread and soft drink laws were enacted.
Sale and labeling of agricultural seed and inspection and certification of seed potatoes were regulated.
Discrimination in the purchase of farm products was forbidden.
Imitation ice cream, butter, and white oleomargarine laws were passed.
Wholesale Produce Dealers Act was passed requiring wholesale dealers within the state to be licensed with the Department, authorizing the commissioner to establish grades on all produce sold within the state, and authorizing the commissioner to promulgate rules and regulations governing rates charged by and the buying, selling, advertising and trading practices of wholesale dealers.
Department moved from the old Capitol building, located on Tenth and Wabasha streets in St. Paul to the newly constructed State Office Building.
Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was enacted and took effect January 1, 1940, requiring major changes in the state’s food standards and corresponding rules and regulations.
Commercial growing of hemp required a license from the Department.
Hybrid Seed Corn Act was passed giving the commissioner authority to regulate sale of hybrid seed corn. This law later became known as the Seed Law which protected consumers from impure seeds.
Propagation and keeping of bees, suppression of contagious diseases among bees, and the registration and maintenance of apiaries were regulated by the Department.
The Grain Inspection and Scale Division building was erected in Duluth, on Garfield Avenue, at a cost of $13,000.
Commissioner was responsible for promulgating rules and regulations for storage of food in refrigerated lockers. Every person operating a frozen food processing plant, or engaged as a processor, was required to be licensed by the Department.
Bacteria standards and Grade A milk program established.
Commissioner approved dairy plants and equipment and granted permits to operate the same.
Commissioner was given exclusive jurisdiction over licensing of persons engaged in breeding, raising, selling or disposing of domesticated fur-bearing animals.
Minnesota Fertilizer Law required manufacturers, importers, etc. of commercial fertilizer to file a certificate with the commissioner. Commissioner also registered the sale of antifreeze.
Department was given authority to regulate the spraying and dusting of crops with herbicides.
Pasteurization of milk and milk bottles became compulsory.
Commissioner given authority to establish rules and regulations for conduct of mosquito abatement operations throughout the state.
Department provided an inspection service for seed potato growers and certified potatoes that met the requirements of the Seed Potato Certification Law and regulations adopted pursuant to it. Department received original authority in 1927.
Minnesota Seed Law codified all previous seed laws giving the Department responsibility to investigate sale, transportation, distribution and adaptation of agricultural seeds.
Commissioner was to enforce law on chemically treated grains which forbid the sale of grains with toxic chemicals present in sufficient quantities to be harmful to humans, animals or poultry.
Sanitation requirements and licensing of animal and poultry slaughtering and packing plants were enacted into law.
Food Handlers License Law required all food handlers, not just milk handlers, to be licensed with the Department.
Operations of Poultry Improvement Board were transferred to the Division of Poultry Industries in the Department. Department was given authority to make rules and regulations relating to the grading, candling, cleaning, breaking, purchasing and selling of eggs and egg products.
Importation of European rabbits was forbidden without the permission of the commissioner.
Department was to enforce the Plant Pest Act to prevent the introduction into and the propagation and dissemination within the state of plant pests and to provide for their suppression and control.
Minnesota Screenings Act prohibited any person to feed or to sell for feeding purposes any weed-seed infested agricultural seeds, grains or screenings.
Administration of the Dairy Industry Unfair Trade Practices Act of 1957 was transferred from the Department of Business Development to the Department. The purpose of this law was to stabilize prices on selected dairy products and to prevent unfair trade practices in marketing these products.
Hazardous Substances Labeling Act regulating the labeling of packages of hazardous substances intended or suitable for household use was enforced by the Department.
Minnesota Paint and Varnish law required commissioner to adopt rules and regulations relating to the sale and distribution of paint, varnish, paint oil or solvent as are necessary to carry out the provisions of the law.
For the purposes of expanding, improving and developing markets for products of Minnesota agriculture, the commissioner was responsible for promoting marketing of these products.
Turkey Promotion Council was established to promote turkey research, production and marketing.
Potato Industry Promotion Act of Minnesota established state potato councils to promote the state potato industry.
Meat Industry Division was created to enforce and administer laws relating to meat, fish and dressed poultry.
Commissioner was responsible for adopting rules and regulations relating to sanitary requirements for bakeries, appurtenances, distribution vehicles, bakery products, standards of identity and labeling requirements.
The Agricultural Commodities Promotion Act was passed allowing Minnesota farmers to act separately or jointly in cooperation with handlers, dealers and processors of such products to promote and stimulate the use, sale and consumption of commodities. An appropriate means to accomplish this objective was through the establishment of agricultural commodity research and promotion councils. Councils for wild rice, eggs, beef, dry beans and wheat were established.
Dairy Promotion Act of Minnesota established a Minnesota Dairy Association Council to contribute to the stabilization and improvement of the dairy industry in the state.
Soybean Research and Promotion Council was established to promote market development advertisement, and market research and production of soybeans grown in Minnesota.
Minnesota Meat Inspection Laws were passed to assure that meat and meat food products distributed in the state were wholesome, unadulterated, and properly marked, labeled and packaged. The commissioner was required to inspect all slaughtering, meat canning, salting, packing, rendering or similar establishments in which animals are slaughtered and the meat and meat food products thereof prepared for interstate commerce.
Interstate Pest Control Compact was created establishing the Pest Control Insurance Fund from which individual states could obtain financial support for pest control programs. The Commissioner of Agriculture was the Compact administrator after Minnesota joined in 1969.
Minnesota Fertilizer and Soil Conditioner Law required commissioner to adopt rules and regulations relating to the manufacture, sale, distribution, tonnage, reporting, labeling and handling of commercial fertilizers and soil conditioners. This law replaced the 1949 Minnesota Fertilizer Law.
Minnesota Commercial Feed Law required the commissioner to adopt rules and regulations for registration, labeling, adulteration, inspections and reporting of commercial feeds and pet foods. This law replaced the 1919 Commercial Feeding Stuffs Law.
Minnesota Consolidated Food Licensing Law authorized the commissioner to license persons engaged in the business of manufacturing, processing, selling, handling or storing food.
Agricultural Marketing and Bargaining Act of 1973 recognized production an marketing of agricultural commodities as a basic and essential industry and allowed individual producers to join together in cooperative associations to bargain effectively.
Corporate Farm Registration Act prohibited future corporate ownership of agricultural land and required any corporation holding an interest in agricultural land or which was engaged in farming to file a report with the commissioner.
Executive reorganization orders numbers 22, 23 and 24 are effective July 1, 1973, transferred the grain inspection and sampling, licensing of livestock dealers, and weighing of livestock from the Department of Public Service to the Department.
The Grain Inspection Division was transferred from the Department of Public Service to the Department of Agriculture by Executive Order. The Weights and Measures Division, and the Track and Hopper Scale Division remained with the Department of Public Service.
Shade Tree Disease Control Program was established.
Minnesota Grain Inspection, Weighing, Sampling & Analysis Act completed the transfer of the authority to supervise inspection, grading, weighing, sampling and analysis of grain within the state from the Department of Public Service to the Department.
Livestock Market Agency and Dealer Licensing Act completed the transfer of jurisdiction and authority from the Department of Public Service to the Department over livestock marketing practices including licensing and bonding of auction markets, packers and dealers, as well as the weighing of livestock at authorized locations.
Plant and Animal Pest Control Act required the Commissioner to provide guidance to subdivisions of state government to establish and fund programs to control pests that may be detrimental to the health and welfare of animals and the environment.
Family Farm Security Program was established to aid beginning farmers in obtaining credit for acquisition of farm real estate.
Pesticide Control Laws were enacted which require that every pesticide offered for sale or distributed in the state be registered with the Department. This law also gives commissioner responsibilities to register special local need pesticides, grant experimental use permits, license dealers, train and license applicators, and handle claims of damage due to pesticides.
Commissioner was required to compensate livestock owners for animals destroyed or crippled by an animal classified as endangered.
Commissioner was authorized to establish a program to license and permit persons engaged in weather modification activities.
Alien Farm Registration Act restricted all non-U.S. citizens, except for permanent resident aliens, from owning Minnesota Agricultural land.
Commissioner was required to establish a Minnesota food products logo and to promulgate rules governing its use.
Grain warehousing was transferred from the Department of Public Service to the Department.
Department moved form the State Office Building to a new location at 90 West Plato Boulevard in St. Paul.
Responsibility over the inspection, grading, sampling and analysis of hay and straw in the state was transferred from the Department of Transportation to the department.
The Alien Farm Registration Act was amended to transfer the responsibility of enforcing provisions that restricts aliens and non-U.S. corporations from owning agricultural land from the Attorney General to the Department.
Laws regarding the licensing and regulation of grain buyers and grain warehouse operators who store grain for hire were recodified in the Grain Buyer’s Act and the Grain Storage Act.
Soil and Water Conservation Board transferred from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department.
Department must review state agency actions and rules which adversely affect agricultural land and recommend alternatives to the conservation of the land.
Shade Tree Disease Control Program was eliminated by Laws of Minnesota for 1982, chapter 641.
Commissioner granted authority to inspect facilities and equipment used for the manufacture of commercial fertilizer or soil and plant amendments.
Commodities Promotion Act consolidated existing statutes for the Dairy, Potato, Turkey and Soybean Research & Promotion Councils.
The Agricultural Development Grant Program was established to expand, improve and develop markets of Minnesota Agriculture. The program was established with $500,000 each year of the biennium.
Manufacturing Grade Dairy Inspections established. Nearly 12,000 manufacturing grade dairy farms were brought under inspection through this inspection process. Previously manufacturing grade farms had been inspected only when a new bulk milk house was constructed.
The Farm Advocate Program was established as a farmer to farmer assistance program as nearly one quarter of the state farms were rejected by commercial lenders and needed to turn to FmHA for loans.
Minnesota farmers send enough food to Sudan to feed 20,000 people for six months.
State ethanol development program started to encourage production of 240,000,000 gallons of the alternative fuel annually. As of January 2002, the annual production in Minnesota was 304,000,000 gallons.
The Rural Finance Authority was created to preserve and develop the state’s agricultural resources.
The Minnesota Ag in the Classroom program established and publishes the first Minnesota AgMag publication for students.
The Agricultural Land Preservation began as a five county pilot program.
The Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Program established, in response to concern over the impact of conventional agricultural, practices on family farm profitability, health and the environment. The purpose of the program is to demonstrate and promote alternative practices which are sound, profitable and which enhance the self sufficiency of Minnesota farmers.
The Agricultural Land Preservation program went state wide allowing every county in the state outside of the metro area to develop comprehensive land-use plans and ordinances which in turn allow farmers to file agricultural restrictive covenants on their land and receive property tax credits.
Pesticide Control Law becomes law containing provisions that give the department authority to determine impacts of pesticides on ground and surface water, place the cleanup responsibilities for pesticide incidents on those responsible; increased enforcement capabilities; gave department authority to administer fines for violators and also provides language that addresses preventive safeguards in chemigation and bulk storage.
Department is given authority to provide a penalty for food firms that start operating before obtaining a food handlers license from the department. During fiscal year 1988 326 firms were found operating without a license resulting in $7,824 in penalties.
Minnesota Hay Hotline established
The Minnesota Trade Office was moved from the Department of Agriculture and placed within the Department of Trade and Economic Development. The Marketing Division of this department retains primary responsibility for promoting Minnesota Agriculture.
The Soil and Water Conservation Board was moved from the department and became the Board of Water and Soil Resources.
The Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources granted the department $490,000 to establish biological insect pest control.
Groundwater Protection Act enacted which dramatically changed laws related to protection and human health.
Directory of meat processors that sell directly to consumers is published by the Marketing Division for the first time.
Legislature passes a bill that guarantees Grade A dairy farmers a minimum price of $13.20 per cwt., to be administered by the Dairy and Livestock Division. The law is later declared unconstitutional.
The “Three Hundred Year Flood” delayed river movement for most of the barge season and decreased crops made rail traffic decline. Grain Inspection revenue decreased and service requests became erratic.
A new federal farm bill was passed that shifted the focus of American agriculture by eliminating the old subsidy programs and instituting a seven-year program of gradually declining market transition payments allowing farmers to produce what the marketplace demands rather than what the government pays.
Dairy Profitability and Enhancement Program established to provide one-on-one assistance to dairy producers to make their farms more profitable.
State Meat Inspection program reinstated and funded allowing local processors to sell state inspected meat to Minnesota consumers.
Minnesota Certification Program established to help certify agricultural production methods to help Minnesota farmers get a premium for their crops and livestock.
The outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom prompts the MDA to recommend a legislative strategy for action should there be an outbreak of the disease in Minnesota.
Livestock Friendly County established to encourage livestock development on a county-by-county basis.
MDA successfully eliminates major infestation of gypsy moths in south Minneapolis near Lake Harriet.
MDA joins the University of Minnesota, the Extension Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service and USDA Farm Service Agency to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pledging to work together to enhance Minnesota's organic agriculture industry. This organic partnership is the first of its kind to occur anywhere in the country.
MDA hosts the annual meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) in St. Paul. The NASDA meeting draws the top state agriculture officials from around the country, giving Minnesota an opportunity to showcase the state’s agricultural community.
MDA moves to new Orville L. Freeman Building at 625 North Robert Street in St. Paul. The new building serves as the headquarters for both MDA and the Minnesota Department of Health, helping to further strengthen cooperative ties between the two agencies in areas such as food safety.
Minnesota becomes the first in the nation to include 2 percent biodiesel in all diesel fuel sold in the state.
MDA creates new award program called "Good Farm Neighbor of the Month," designed to honor livestock producers who are both good neighbors and caring stewards of the environment. The award is presented monthly by the MDA in partnership with the Linder Farm Network, Minnesota Farm Network, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, and Minnesota Soybean Promotion Council.
As a dangerous form of highly pathogenic avian influenza known as "H5N1" or "Asian bird flu" spreads across Asia, Europe and Africa, MDA steps up preparations for an outbreak in North America, and for a potential human influenza pandemic sparked by a mutation of the virus.
MDA's AgBMP loan program passes the milestone of $100 million in low-interest loans. The program provides loans to farmers, rural landowners and agricultural supply businesses to finance projects that protect water quality.
As the highly destructive tree pest called emerald ash borer spreads west from Michigan into Illinois, MDA and its partner agencies step up efforts to inform Minnesotans of the risks of transporting tree pests inside firewood. The campaign urges campers to buy firewood at or near their campsite, and includes the slogan "Buy it where you burn it."
Sesquicentennial exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society
150 year time line
- Minnesota Historical Society
Engineers Calculate Ag's 15 Biggest Achievements (Vogt, Willie, Farm Progress/Marketplace Extra, August 2007) (PDF)
Affirmative action policy
Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), 625 Robert Street North, Saint Paul, MN 55155-2538,