SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed its Agriculture budget bill to strengthen farming and food production in Minnesota. The legislation funds the operations of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Board of Animal Health, and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute. Additionally, the bill makes new investments in high-speed broadband across the state.
“I’m grateful for our farmers in Minnesota and everyone else who works in agriculture. COVID-19 has been very difficult for the entire state, and this budget addresses many of the challenges farmers are facing,” said Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL – Esko), Chair of the House Agriculture Committee. “Agriculture represents a small part of the state budget, but plays an enormous role in our state’s economy and way of life. This legislation will help farmers have a stronger future, bolster our next generation of farmers and encourage new Minnesotans to explore opportunities in agriculture, tackle the growing threat of climate change, and ensure Minnesotans can all have healthy food to put on the table.”
With a vision to encourage more Minnesotans to explore farming, the legislation includes funding for an Emerging Farmer Office at the MDA, Farmland Access Teams, and Urban Youth Agriculture. The bill also requires the MDA to help farmers finance new cooperatives that process or market agricultural products or services.
"What I enjoy most about the Ag committee is our commitment and focus on the impact on farmers and improving our food systems. However, we all know not all farmers are treated equally, this is a strong bill because it invests in resources to support emerging farmers who face multiple barriers in accessing support," said Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL - Brooklyn Center), Vice Chair of the Agriculture Committee. "This bill also expands opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the food industry and continues supports that encourage investment in alternative markets such as hemp."
The bill also invests $30 million over the next two years for the state Border to Border Broadband Grant Program. The funding would be used to meet state speed and connectivity goals in unserved and underserved parts of the state. The investment would supplement funding Minnesota will receive under the American Rescue Plan eligible toward broadband expansion.
The legislation includes a series of other investments and policy provisions to strengthen agriculture in Minnesota including:
- Mental health outreach and funding to continue operation of Minnesota’s Farmer and Rural Helpline
- Funding for pesticide education, equipment, and additional staff to ensure that lakes, rivers, and drinking water sources have safe pesticide levels using new revenue from a small fee increase on pesticide sales
- Farm safety grants
- Grants toward milk and protein for purchases by Second Harvest Heartland
- New investments to increase access to ethanol and biodiesel across the state, with funding for service station owners to install the equipment needed to sell of higher blends of biofuels, such as E15 (gas that is 15% ethanol), E30 (30% ethanol), and E80 (80% ethanol).
- An increase in the period in which creditors are prohibited from enforcing debts subject to the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act from 90 days to 120 days
- Funding for the state’s noxious weed and invasive plant program to help counties, townships, and cities with the enforcement of noxious weed issues
- Funding to address crop damage by wolves and elk
- Support for Minnesota’s industrial hemp program
- Funding to establish the “Climate Smart Farm” endorsement from the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP)
- A requirement for those who label and sell agricultural, vegetable, flower, or wildflower seed treated with neonicotinoid pesticides to include a caution statement on the product label, and a prohibition on the use of treated seed in ethanol
- A measure allowing Minnesotans who sell homemade, shelf-stable foods and beverages such as baked goods, to more than quadruple their annual sales without a license
- Additional funding for meat and poultry inspections and an exemption from state regulation for small meat processors (with annual sales less than $20,000) who process fowl and game for hunters
- Two members additional members of the Board of Animal Health: one veterinarian and one person who has knowledge of animal health and is a member of a federally recognized tribe located in Minnesota
“Minnesota farmers and our agricultural communities must be successful for Minnesota to be successful,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Agriculture is a major economic driver in our state. House DFLers are investing in farmers and their families to ensure our agriculture and food production industries emerge stronger after the pandemic.”
“Family farmers are still grappling with the consequences of a global pandemic and four years of disastrous policies under Donald Trump and Republican politicians in Congress,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “Digging out of this hole won’t be easy. Farmers and their families are counting on the Legislature to help them emerge stronger. Agriculture is part of our state’s fabric, and the House DFL budget creates opportunities for all Minnesotans to participate, no matter where we live or what we look like.”
A spreadsheet of the investments contained in the bill is available here. Video of the House Floor session is available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube page.