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Omnibus ag bill proposes $100 million increase in broadband spending, expansion of processing capacity

The total number might not be as big as many wanted, but General Fund spending for farmers, plant innovators, and meat processors could increase more than usual.

Through a delete-all amendment to HF2278 adopted Tuesday, the omnibus agriculture finance and policy bill contains investments in rural broadband, emerging farmers and marketing of agricultural products.

The House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee is expected to consider additional amendments and take a final vote Thursday. Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center), the committee chair, is the bill sponsor.

The two largest appropriations are $163 million to the Department of Agriculture and $125.7 million to the Office of Broadband, a $100 million increase.  

A number of Agriculture Department areas would receive new General Fund spending for the upcoming biennium, including:

  • $18.8 million for the Administration and Financial Assistance Division;
  • $9.47 million for the Agricultural, Growth, Research, and Innovation Program;
  • $6.72 million for the Protection Services Division; and
  • $550,000 for the Promotions and Marketing Division.

Other General Fund spending increases in the coming biennium include $1.23 million for the Board of Animal Health and $1.2 million for the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute.

[MORE: See the spreadsheet]

The omnibus proposal also includes provisions that address food access, land access, pollinators, and ensures state agencies have resources to serve the agricultural community, said Vang.

“It’s very possible to achieve priorities for big ag, small ag, rural farmers and urban farmers, for the environment and sustainability of agriculture,” she said. “I hope that stakeholders can find a piece of their contributions in this budget. I’m thankful to have heard the many wishes, dreams and needs of members of the committee.”

One provision that has received support and opposition this session is a $5 million General Fund appropriation to establish a grain indemnity account to compensate farmers if an elevator goes broke. Farmers could participate in the program with premiums based on grain sales. Several neighboring states have similar accounts, likened to a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation connected to banks, and the proposal comes in part as a response to high-profile grain-buyer bankruptcies that cost some farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This new program would generally replace a surety bond system in which grain buyers show they have the wherewithal to meet their financial obligations.

The bill would also alter the makeup of the Board of Animal Health, which would go from six to 11 members who would no longer require Senate confirmation. It would eliminate a requirement that board members be livestock producers or veterinarians, though they would need to be knowledgeable about raising or caring for animals.  

Another provision would have the Department of Agriculture prepare a plan to regulate pesticide treated seeds.

Provisions in the bill would make several investments to expand meat-processing capacity including $75,000 annually for a liaison in the Department of Agriculture, along with $500,000 for grants to small processors and $1.25 million for grants to start-up or expand meat processing businesses.

Other specific appropriations for the 2024-25 biennium include:

  • $13.5 million for bioeconomy incentives claims;
  • $6 million for equipment grants to gas stations wanting to sell biofuels;
  • $4.5 million for the Minnesota Agriculture Education Leadership Council;
  • $3 million for the state’s Dairy Assistance, Investment, Relief Initiative program, a dairy risk protection program;
  • $3 million for Second Harvest Heartland on behalf of the state’s six Feeding America food banks;
  • $2.5 million to a pollinator research account;
  • $2 million for research into avian flu and other turkey-related diseases and $1.2 million for a rapid response team to disease outbreaks;
  • $2 million for hemp fiber processing grants;
  • $2 million to promote urban and youth agriculture;
  • $2 million to promote genetic diversity in oilseeds, grains, grasses and legumes;
  • $2 million to expand the Farm to School Program;
  • $1.68 million to identify and regulate pesticides containing PFAS;
  • $1.5 million for farm down-payment assistance grants;
  • $1 million is for winter greenhouse research and development through the University of Minnesota Extension; and
  • $800,000 for grants to fight noxious weeds.


What’s in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus agriculture finance bill:

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