The combined total in a new law containing appropriations for agriculture, drought relief and broadband is $50.9 million from the General Fund in the 2022-23 biennium and $32.5 million in the next biennium.
Sponsored by Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko) and Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), the law will provide the Department of Agriculture with an additional $1.5 million in fiscal year 2022 and $6 million in fiscal year 2023. An additional $7.5 million will be added to the department’s base in the 2024-25 biennium. These appropriations took effect May 27, 2022.
Agriculture Department appropriations in fiscal year 2023, unless otherwise noted, include:
• $1.9 million for agriculture, bioenergy and bioproduct advancement;
• $827,000 for grants to organizations to provide technical and culturally appropriate services to emerging farmers and related businesses; organizations to help emerging farmers pay for up to 65 percent of premium expenses each year up to two years under the federal micro farm insurance program; and The Good Acre for the Local Emergency Assistance Farmer Fund program to compensate emerging farmers for crops donated to hunger relief organizations in Minnesota;
• $750,000 to support the department’s IT modernization;
• $750,000 for the Ag Innovation Campus to continue construction of a soybean processing and research facility;
• $630,000 will be added to the base for fiscal year 2024 and each following year to fund the Forever Green Initiative;
• $500,000 is a onetime appropriation for a soil health financial assistance pilot program;
• $350,000 to secondary career and technical education programs for the purpose of offering instruction in meat cutting and butchery;
• $250,000 to purchase equipment for the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to test for chronic wasting disease, African swine fever, avian influenza and other animal diseases; and
• $141,000 to administer the beginning farmer tax credit (with a $56,000 annual base appropriation going forward).
The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute will have an additional $300,000 added to its fiscal year 2024 base for equipment upgrades and replacement, installation expenses and laboratory infrastructure for sites in Crookston, Marshall and Waseca. An additional $200,000 will be added to the base in fiscal year 2024 and thereafter to maintain levels of service. (Art. 1, Secs. 1-4)
The law directs $8.1 million in fiscal year 2022 to the Department of Agriculture to provide financial assistance to livestock farmers and specialty crop producers impacted by a 2021 drought. Another $2.5 million is to be transferred from the General Fund to the Rural Finance Authority Revolving Loan account, with priority given to drought relief loans, and $1.5 million in fiscal year 2022 is transferred from the General Fund to the agricultural emergency account.
The Department of Natural Resources will receive $5 million in fiscal year 2023 to replace drought-killed seedlings on lands managed by the department and to administer grants to tribal, county and private forestland owners to replace drought-killed seedlings on their land, and $300,000 in fiscal year 2022 for costs associated with resolving well interferences confirmed by the DNR between May 1, 2021 and Dec. 30, 2021. (Art. 3, Secs. 1-6)
Agriculture policy provisions
Generally effective July 1, 2022, policies and programs in the law include:
• the Department of Agriculture must re-establish and administer a grant program to assist farmers in financing new cooperatives that operate agricultural product processing facilities or market agricultural products or services;
• let the department provide farm down payment assistance grants of up to $15,000 per eligible farmer;
• the Board of Animal Health is allowed to apply and receive federal money for animal disease response;
• the Pollinator Research Account is extended until July 1, 2025;
• a member with knowledge of cybersecurity will be added to the Food Safety and Defense Task Force;
• modifies, including eligibility criteria, the Bioincentive Program whereby the Agriculture Department pays eligible entities that produce qualifying advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals or biomass thermal energy; and
• establishment of a soil health financial assistance pilot program. (Art. 2, Secs. 2, 10-11, 15-16, 18-23, 29)
The Department of Employment and Economic Development must establish a lower population density pilot program to provide broadband to unserved and underserved areas. The department will also establish a broadband line extension grant program.
The department must submit a federal grant plan application requesting that $60.7 million of Minnesota’s capital projects fund be used for grants for broadband projects. Of the total, $30 million would go to the lower population density program, $15 million for the broadband line extension program and $15 million for a statewide comprehensive mapping.
Effective July 1, 2022, a $25 million General Fund appropriation in fiscal year 2023 will be transferred to the Border-to-Border Broadband Fund.
A grant program will be established to assist broadband providers in extending broadband service to unserved locations through a reverse auction process. The law also regulates the use of easements to provide broadband service. (Art. 4, Secs. 1-7; Art. 5, Secs. 1, 3)