2009 marks the 20th year of AURI’s operation as a nonprofit corporation created to improve the economy of rural Minnesota through the development of value-added uses for the state’s agricultural commodities.
During the farm crisis of the 1980’s, Minnesota leaders recognized something innovative needed to be done to strengthen rural Minnesota’s economy and to use growing grain supplies.
Discussions with commodity groups, farm organizations and legislative leaders resulted in 1987 legislation that created the
A steering committee of AURI’s advisory board, representing ag-related organizations and businesses, led the program. In June 1989, AURI was incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization.
“There are two times when you have the inertia to seek change; one is when times are good and the other is when you can see the writing on the wall because your back is against it,” says Roger Moe, former Minnesota Senate majority leader and author of the Rural Economic Development Act of 1987. Jerry Schoenfeld of Waseca authored AURI founding legislation in the House.
Minnesota has long been home to top-notch agricultural research institutions, including the University of Minnesota. The state’s land grant university has developed copious amounts of research on agricultural production. When AURI was formed, however, some ag leaders wanted a stronger link between research and commerce.
“We were given a statute and told to go do it, but there really wasn’t much of a template to follow,” says Al Christopherson, chair of the AURI board of directors and long time former president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau. “We did a lot by trial and error.”
As with most organizations that have been around for 20 years, AURI has gone through growing pains and adaptations. Programs and services have changed to match the state’s needs and react to emerging opportunities. AURI’s work has been shaped by record fuel prices, record crop prices, a struggling economy, an explosive growth in the renewable energy industry, and state and federal policies.
“What has never changed is our commitment to providing the best scientific, technical expertise and targeted network coordination to add value and long-term economic vitality to Minnesota,” says Teresa Spaeth, AURI executive director.
“We work very hard to be creative, collaborative, innovative and to look at things that haven’t been done before.”