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Minnesota Legislature

Funding needed to grow Emerging Farmer Working Group

House Photography file photo

A Department of Agriculture-run working group aimed at helping immigrants, people of color and other underrepresented populations start and sustain farms could get state funding to pay participants and hire facilitators.

Sponsored by Rep. Jessica Hanson (DFL-Burnsville), HF1274 would dedicate $10,000 annually in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 to the Emerging Farmer Working Group, which has met four times since November 2020.

The bill, which on Monday was laid over for possible omnibus bill inclusion, would also allow the Agriculture Department to accept donations on behalf of the group.

It doesn't have a Senate companion.

Ag panel hears HF1274 02/22/21

Working group participants can receive $30 stipends for participating in meetings, but the Agriculture Department says that funding isn't guaranteed in the future without legislative action.

The funding would also allow for more staff focus on the group.

Member Hannah Bernhardt, owner of Medicine Creek Farm, said the lack of funding could preclude some people from participating.

Minnesota has over 111,000 farmers, according to federal data, and over 99% of operators are white.

Challenges to reducing the disparities include racism, predatory lending, a lack of credit and insurance and longer-term land leases, participants in 2019 state-run listening sessions said.

Naima Dhore, founder of the Somali American Farmers Association, said accessing land is challenging.

Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) said federal laws make it hard for anyone except for people with a lot of money to buy land.


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