Thom Petersen, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), will be recognized with the ASHCA 2022 Policymaker/Legislator Award for his many contributions to agricultural safety and health. We at UMASH are thrilled to have nominated Commissioner Peterson for this award.
Commissioner Petersen is a lifelong farmer who worked on his family farm and currently operates his own horse and farm business. From 2002 – 2017, he served as the Director of Government Relations for Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU), working on behalf of MFU’s farmer-members in both Washington, D.C. and St. Paul. Since 2019, he has applied his extensive experience in state and federal farm policy to his role as MDA Commissioner.
Thom has been an advocate for our agricultural economy for over 15 years, both here in Minnesota and in Washington, D.C. He understands the vast diversity of farming across our state, and actively works to lift up their voices so that all Minnesota family farms have the opportunity to compete and thrive.
An Active Contributor
He travels to almost every county in Minnesota each year to fully understand how policies affect farmers’ daily lives. He is an active contributor to many agricultural boards and committees, including the Minnesota Farm Safety Working Group, where he has been instrumental in advocating for grain bin safety, administering funds for safety equipment, and supporting solutions for farmer wellbeing and stress reduction via farm crisis assistance program.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Commissioner Petersen gathered together community members and leaders from state departments, trade associations, agricultural organizations, farmers, and community organizations on a bi-weekly basis. He worked to connect farmers and agricultural workers impacted by the pandemic to resources to mitigate its disruptions to the supply chain, workforce, and access to personal protective equipment.
Commissioner Petersen has also worked extensively to support farm communities experiencing unprecedented levels of stress and mental health challenges. For example, he has supported senior strategy members at MDA, funded innovation in mental health support, increased the number of rural mental health specialists in the state of Minnesota.