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Compromise agreement proposes $139 million budget for agriculture initiatives

Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko) chairs the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee. Monday morning he had words of praise for a compromise budget agreement.

“It invests in opportunities to develop new markets, it supports continuing efforts that help address climate change, soil health and water quality. … It also looks to the future to ensure that we have a rich and growing diversity of farmers equipped to contribute to our communities and economy.”

But Sundin also expressed disappointment the deal does not include funding for Market Bucks, which helps low-income Minnesotans stretch their buying power at farmers’ markets with a $10 match.

Other disappointments for Sundin include omitted provisions on treated seeds, and climate-smart farms.

Sundin noted he wasn’t alone in his mixed reaction to the SSHF8, saying, “Both sides took provisions that they weren’t particularly wild about, and didn’t get everything they wanted either.”

The committee took no action; but, the agreement, as amended, was approved 21-5 Monday afternoon by the House Ways and Means Committee and sent to the full House. A companion, SSSF25, sponsored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

The agreement would appropriate $139.4 million from the General Fund for the 2022-23 fiscal biennium, an increase of $12.7 million over base:

  • $118.7 million to the Department of Agriculture;
  • $12.1 million to the Board of Animal Health; and
  • $8.6 million to the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

The Department of Agriculture appropriation includes funds that would increase farmer mental health outreach, enhance farm-to-school markets, provide for noxious weed control, prevention and mitigation of plant pathogens and pests, and permit the purchase of a mobile unit to train students on meat-cutting techniques.

Other proposed funding for the Agriculture Department in the 2022-23 biennium includes:

  • $50.7 million to advance agriculture, bioenergy, and bioproduct programs;
  • $3.4 million to Second Harvest Heartland for its six food banks in the state;
  • $1.65 million to upgrade equipment in the department’s analytical laboratory;
  • $450,000 in additional funding for the noxious weed and invasive plant program;
  • $300,000 to establish an emerging farmer office with a full-time emerging farmer outreach coordinator; and
  • $200,000 for farm safety grant and outreach programs.

The agreement proposes to fund the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute with $8.6 million to continue its mission “to develop new uses for agricultural products through science and technology.”

That figure is $800,000 more than the current biennial budget, with $500,000 for “grants to organizations to acquire, host, and operate a mobile slaughter unit” and $300,000 toward hiring a meat scientist.

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