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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL)

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State lawmakers invest in Farm-To-Food Shelf program

Saturday, May 17, 2014

ST. PAUL, MN – Last night, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved a supplemental budget that invests $2 million in a farm-to-food shelf program estimated to generate 10 million pounds of fresh, healthy food for food shelves throughout Minnesota, which would in turn produce 7.6 million meals.

The Senate passed the same budget, sending it to Governor Dayton to be signed into law.

State Representative Jeanne Poppe (DFL – Austin), chair of the House Agriculture Policy Committee and chief author of the Farm-To-Food Shelf provision, says the funds will be used to compensate Minnesota farmers for costs incurred when harvesting and transferring surplus crops that would otherwise be discarded or left unused.

“It’s a win-win-win for Minnesota families, farmers and food shelves,” said Poppe. “We’re providing nutritious food for low-income families, supporting the food shelves that serve our communities and making sure it is financially prudent for our farmers to make that possible.”

Under the supplemental budget, the Department of Agriculture would receive the $2 million appropriation then distribute those funds in grants to Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank to reimburse farmers. The program is modeled after a successful three-year pilot program created by Second Harvest aimed at achieving “food security” for all Minnesotans (i.e. access at all times to enough food).

Another budget provision that aims to help Minnesota’s agriculture industry would appropriate roughly $4.86 million to create a Terrestrial Invasive Species Research Center with the goal of fighting the spread of invasive plants and pests. The center will draw on the expertise of numerous departments, including:  Entomology, Plant Pathology, Forest Resources, Fisheries Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Agronomy and Plant Genetics and Plant Biology at the University of Minnesota while also utilizing the University of Minnesota’s Research and Outreach Centers across the state. 

In addition, the budget includes $200,000 for a grant as determined by the commissioner to a public higher education institution to research porcine epidemic diarrhea virus.

Poppe says the supplemental budget builds on the investments DFLers made last year to support Minnesota’s family farmers, ranchers, livestock producers and agri-businesses.

Last year, state lawmakers provided new resources for the AGRI Fund that are helping to expand the Farm-to-School program, provide grants for the start-up, transition, and expansion of family farm livestock operations, assist with the start-up of any farm, and fund research on conventional and cover crops.

Lawmakers also extended the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act through 2016, which requires banks and other creditors offer mediation to farmers before proceeding with foreclosure, repossession, cancellation of contract, or collection of judgment.

In addition, the Legislature boosted resources for the Department of Agriculture, created an agriculture water quality certainty program, and provided funding for pollinator habitat restoration.

“Minnesotans understand that when agriculture does well, we all do well,” added Poppe. “That’s why the DFL-led Legislature continues to take serious steps to strengthen our agriculture sector right now and into the future.”