SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Monday, on a vote of 70-62, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved legislation boosting investments in agriculture and food production. The legislation delivers new funding for a variety of important initiatives including soil health improvements, noxious weed and invasive plant species eradication, pollinator protection, cover crop development, and new opportunities for farmers market vendors. The bill includes investments in small meat cutters and processors, support for hunger relief, financial assistance to emerging farmers, and more.
“Minnesota has a rich agriculture tradition and food grown and produced in our state feeds the entire world. House DFLers are supporting traditional crop and livestock production, while investing in innovations to support the next generation of farming,” said Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL – Esko), author of the bill’s agriculture investments. “The legislation boosts opportunities for emerging farmers and producers, ensures we’re better able to respond to ag. emergencies like the current Avian Influenza outbreak, and delivers new investments in resilient, sustainable practices to ensure all Minnesotans will have access to the fresh, nutritious food they count on.”
The bill invests a total of $60 million in the current biennium for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, with an additional $15 million for the next biennium. Investments include funding for the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Initiative to support breeding and agronomic research on perennial and winter-annual crops. Additionally, other grants will be available to develop continuous living cover crops and cropping systems – which are soil and water-friendly – including Kernza.
Other investments include funding to address noxious weeds and invasive plant species, to create and implement a program to support farmers markets and direct marketing producers, lab testing for the Minnesota meat and poultry inspection program, the soil health financial assistance, pollinator research, and a food safety program analysis. The bill also includes a prohibition on plastic-coated fertilizers and pesticides and regulates disposal of seed treated with a neonicotinoid pesticide
“Agriculture is one of the pillars of Minnesota’s economy,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Minnesota’s farmers deserve tools, support, and resources to not only recover from recent and current crises but to prosper over the long term. House DFLers are bringing forward significant investments to strengthen the future of agriculture in Minnesota.”
The budget increases funding for Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation programs, including Good Food Access, Urban and Youth Ag, and Farm to School grants.
To support emerging farmers and food-system-related businesses, the bill includes funding for technical and culturally appropriate services and Farm Business Management tuition assistance. The bill establishes a down payment assistance program, providing up to $15,000 for Minnesotans who are purchasing a farm. To help Minnesotans experiencing food insecurity, the bill invests in grants to Second Harvest Heartland and the Local Emergency Assistance Farmer Fund. To support more renewable, environmentally friendly energy and chemical sources, the bill increases bioincentive payments.
“Minnesotans are paying more for groceries because the wealthy few have crushed competition in the food industry. Look no further than multinational corporations like JBS who paid tens of millions to settle lawsuits alleging price fixing to boost their profits,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “Support for new and beginning farmers and smaller operations must be part of Minnesota’s approach to agriculture if we want to drive down prices and diversify this critical economic sector in the years to come. I’m proud of the work done by Ag Committee Chair Sundin and Vice Chair Vang to bring about greater equity and diversity among Minnesota’s growers and producers.”
The bill continues efforts to boost opportunities for small meat and poultry processors and create new career pathways in the field with funding for meat processing facility grants, MinnState meat cutting programs and other secondary career and technical education programs, along with other assistance to small processors. To help prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease and protect Minnesota’s wild deer population, the bill includes a moratorium on new whitetailed deer farms.
Video of the House Floor Session will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.