Minnesota got a lot of attention from the Biden administration last week.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Trade Rep. Katherine Tai made separate visits to the North Star state to tout the Biden administration's agenda and accomplishments. Vilsack and Tai even stopped by the State Fair to enjoy Minnesota's cherished annual get-together.
While at the Fair, Vilsack announced the Biden administration would be allocating $230 million in new funding to Minnesota for rural development projects.
The agriculture secretary also made a point to mention major bills that have passed during President Joe Biden's first term: the American Rescue Plan, the infrastructure bill, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act.
"These four acts are transformational in the way in which they can impact and affect our economy and our country," Vilsack said, mixing in remarks that may very well be repeated by Democrats on the campaign trail next year.
Agriculture summits often smack of bipartisanship, but a pointed partisan tone undergirded Vilsack's visit.
Vilsack, a former moderate Democratic governor from Iowa, painted a stark image of his predecessor in the Trump administration, Sonny Perdue, as a friend to the largest, wealthiest farmers.
"Two-and-a-half years ago, we wouldn't have had this meeting," Vilsack said. "We were faced with the possibility of a depression."
Former Ag Secretary Purdue visited Minnesota four years ago, appearing at Farmfest, not the State Fair.
In breaks from official business, Vilsack sampled a pork schnitzel sandwich and traded good-natured barbs with Minnesota's congressional delegation about his home state.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar touted Minnesota's turkey, sweet corn and sugar beet production and quipped to Vilsack that "I don't know where Iowa is in any of these things, Mr. Secretary."
Vilsack retorted that his home state is the nation's top breakfast producer when it comes to hogs and eggs.
Tai attended a roundtable discussion hosted by the Minnesota Asian Pacific Caucus on Wednesday morning and toured the State Fair alongside Klobuchar in the afternoon.
"You are a big state" when it comes to trade, Tai said, marveling at both Minnesota's agriculture production and its diversity of big businesses.
Klobuchar said it's important for Tai to hear from Minnesota businesses and agriculture producers.
"You need that kind of input to be able to make decisions both on major things like trade policy but also on individual things that come up," Klobuchar said.
Granholm visited northern Minnesota on Wednesday, touring a solar manufacturing facility in Mountain Iron with U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, and a Duluth solar garden with Smith and Duluth Mayor Emily Larson.
The energy secretary was in Minnesota to highlight Biden's agenda and how it is "driving exciting new economic opportunities, lowering energy costs and utility bills for the American people," according to an Energy Department news release.
It was Granholm's third visit to Minnesota, the department said.
A White House spokesman wouldn't say whether the timing of three different Cabinet members visiting Minnesota in the same week was intentional or coincidental.
But it can't be denied that Minnesota remains an important state for Biden's re-election hopes.
The Democratic president is facing a likely rematch against former President Donald Trump, who nearly won Minnesota when he was elected in 2016 before performing more poorly in the state four years later.
Trump has shown he has a strong base of support here, even as he faces four criminal indictments. Biden easily won Minnesota in 2020, defeating Trump by 7 percentage points, but it's unclear if the Democratic president will garner as much support next year.
"I expect, as does the national party, that this is going to be a close race," Minnesota DFL chair Ken Martin said.
Martin said he isn't surprised to see so many Cabinet members visit the state, considering Minnesota has many projects that have benefited from federal legislation. He expects more officials to visit in the coming months as the campaign season heats up.
"This is a critical battleground and there's no path to winning the presidency without winning the four blue wall states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin," Martin said.
Star Tribune staff writers Christopher Vondracek and Laura McCallum contributed to this story.