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ENEWS: On Women in Energy, Broadband Persistence and MinnesotaCare for Farmers

Date Published: 04/05/2018

Author: Dane Smith

Minnesota Women Leading Renewable Energy

Our quest at Growth & Justice for a more equitable economy in Minnesota leads us to work on many fronts, including racial, environmental and gender justice.  We call attention to injustice and look for practical solutions, but we also like to celebrate progress.   An example of the latter is a series of profiles by the Clean Energy Resource Team project that honors the impressive cadre of women taking leadership roles in our state's momentous shift to renewable energy. Among the 21 interviewees in the online series is Kate Wofford, president of the McKnight Foundation.   We like how she described the best and worst aspects of her job:

 "The best part is working collaboratively with the business, civic, and public sectors on some of society’s most pressing challenges and opportunities. Minnesota’s cross-sector leadership created our pioneering bipartisan Next Generation Energy Act in 2007 and other market-friendly policies. Fast forward to the present. In Minnesota, jobs in renewables grew 15% since 2015 and energy efficiency is helping towns across the state save money. Instead of breathing dirty exhaust from a school bus, kids in Lakeville, MN, ride an electric bus powered by wind. The result is cleaner air and lower operating costs. Now imagine if that scaled to every school across the state. This is the future—the question for us is whether we lead or lag in getting there.” 

“Worst Part: When Minnesota leads, it is because of pragmatism, not dogmatism. So I worry about the state following the national trend of entrenched polarization and political dysfunction, fueled by the bots and ‘gotcha’ sound bites of social media feeds and other forces we are just beginning to understand. That makes it more difficult to forge common sense solutions."

Persisting for Rural Broadband Access 

An estimated 27 percent of Greater Minnesota households still lack access to the high-speed internet service necessary to compete in the 21st Century economy.  Since early 2011, when Gov. Mark Dayton took office, state government investment, in cooperation with local businesses and communities, has provided enough  funding to expand broadband access to 33,852 households, 5,189 businesses, and 300 community institutions in rural areas.   Last week, Governor Dayton proposed to sustain that momentum with another $30 million and expansion of access to 11,000 more homes, businesses, and community institutions in Greater Minnesota.  And we will need to maintain or even accelerate the pace of expansion in coming years.  In its 2017 Annual Report, published in January, 2018, the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband, a nonpartisan organization charged with analyzing Minnesota’s broadband needs, recommended $71.5 million in on-going biennial funding (approximately $35 million per year) for the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program.

Farmers Need MinnesotaCare Option

Farming is one of our most hazardous occupations and unaffordable health insurance in private markets stands out as one of the most pressing problems in Greater Minnnesota. This is a challenge not only for farmers, but for other working families who are self-employed. Minnesota National Farmers Union President Gary Wertish is on the stump this spring pushing hard for the Legislature to provide a buy-in option to the MinnesotaCare program for working families.  In a recent op-ed in the Tri-State Neighbor, Wertish cited the example of a Wantonwan County farm couple, Brian and Therese Romsdahl, who are paying $33,000 annually for health care.  Wertish argued that "a better option is needed to help the Romsdahls and countless other Minnesota farmers who continue to grow our food. With so many unable to break even on their farm businesses right now, reducing costs in as many places as possible is critical. Partisan fighting isn’t going to help anyone."


“From apples to eggs to milk to walnuts, delivering goods from farm to market requires more than roads and electricity, it requires broadband.,” -- Dave Wolf, General Manager of Gardonville Telephone Co-op, in Brandon and Alexandria, Minnesota.

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