The nation's top agricultural official — U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — took in a whirlwind tour of the Minnesota State Fair on Monday, greeting a tiara-wearing dairy princess, sampling a pork schnitzel sandwich and enduring good-natured jabs from Minnesota's congressional delegation about that rival big fair in the secretary's home state of Iowa.

After noting Minnesota leads the nation in production of turkeys, sweet corn and sugar beets, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said, "I don't know where Iowa is in any of these things, Mr. Secretary."

In Iowa's defense, Vilsack retorted the Hawkeye state is "number one for breakfast: hogs and eggs."

Banter aside, Vilsack had business to attend to, including announcing $230 million in new funding from the Biden administration for rural development projects in Minnesota. That encompasses $4 million for a new meat-processing plant and a retail area in a food desert of Waubun on the White Earth Indian Reservation, $2.8 million for new streets and sewers in Silver Lake and $82.4 million to update and expand the electric grid for Cohasset-based Lake Country Power.

In a white-board session in the warehouse of Good Acre, a food hub in Falcon Heights, the secretary — also a former Democratic governor of Iowa — took off his suit jacket and picked up a dry erase marker to spell out how U.S. farmers drew record income last year in aggregate.

Vilsack interrupted the audience's applause to remark on how that's often the response crowds have to such news. But then he noted 89% of that income went to roughly just the top quarter of farmers.

"Nearly 50 percent of farmers didn't make any money at all last year," Vilsack said. He framed recent passed legislation as part of the reasoning, including "climate-smart" programs the Inflation Reduction Act targeted as a springboard to the remaining farmers to access value-added markets.

"It's not a get-big or get-out [mentality]," said Vilsack, invoking remarks his predecessor, Sonny Perdue, made. "It's get entrepreneurial."

Joining Vilsack, who also led the sprawling USDA in Washington, D.C., for eight years during the Obama administration, were Minnesota's two U.S. senators — Klobuchar and Tina Smith — as well as Reps. Angie Craig and Betty McCollum, who represents St. Paul in Congress.

Before a morning roundtable with producers, McCollum, a Democrat, alluded to a fight brewing on Capitol Hill about funding for the Agriculture Department as well as the farm bill, which expires at the end of September.

"The Republicans who are in the leadership of the House haven't even released a draft farm bill," McCollum said.

The announcements on Monday come as campaign season starts to warm up, and the Biden administration seeks to draw public attention to major funding bills — from the IRA to the CHIPS Act — passed during his first two years in office. In an interview with reporters Monday, Vilsack said Republicans in Congress, many of whom opposed those pieces of legislation, should not try to retroactively target climate-smart ag funding in the farm bill and the agency in ongoing funding negotiations.

During the tour of the fairgrounds, including stops at both Minnesota Farmers Union and Minnesota Farm Bureau stands, Glen Groth, a farmer from Winona County, said he welcomed federal investments in sustainability programs for farmers but noted logistical hurdles.

"Sometimes the application can be cumbersome," Groth said. "And if you're locked into having to do this one practice or adopt this one technology, well, it might work one year, but it might not be the best idea the next year."

Groth offered as an example the drought-and-rain cycles he's seen for farms in southeastern Minnesota.

Later Monday, the delegation, including Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen, visited the dairy barn via golf cart, where Vilsack stopped by the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association booth and cast a vote for names for the two presidential turkeys heading to the White House for the official pardoning this Thanksgiving.

Outside the dairy building, a passerby wore a "BEEF: IT'S WHAT'S FOR DINNER" hat but acknowledged she did not live on a farm. She did, however, learn a lot about agriculture at the fair.

"If someone asks you," she said, "a cow has four stomachs."