June is National Dairy Month, an event which started out as National Milk Month in 1937 to promote drinking milk.
Throughout the years, this industry has remained a significant component in Minnesota’s economy. Reports show the average dairy farm in Minnesota generates over $1 million for the state economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture information shows that, as of last year, Minnesota had 2,456 total dairy farms – with a sizeable portion in our district.
That said, our dairy farmers have been going through some tough times and we’ve reportedly lost more than 2,000 operations in the last decade. Please join me in showing appreciation for our dairy industry by raising a glass (of milk) to all of the dairy producers in our area and state in general.
As for news from the Capitol, the Legislature returned to St. Paul this week for a special session primarily called by the governor to finish work on a new two-year state budget.
One of the first items of business we have taken up on the floor is an omnibus finance bill which provides $10 million for agricultural aspects of the state’s budget. A vote on this package could happen later today.
I am pleased the bill includes $6 million for biofuel infrastructure grants to help facilitate the equipment upgrades necessary to handle the new E15 blend of fuel. Retail and distributors of petroleum products will be able to apply for the grants to install new tanks and pumps that are compatible with up to E25 blends.
This funding will be helpful to building out our infrastructure for expanded use of biofuels. We hear a lot about using more electric cars to improve air quality in the future, but biofuels can have a much more immediate impact and this appropriation to aid in the transition will be helpful in that regard.
The agriculture bill also appropriates $2.9 million to supplement the Agricultural Best Management Practices Loan program, which helps farmers implement practices on their land to improve soil and water quality. Another $1.2 million is provided for capital equipment replacement in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s plant protection and disease management labs. Funding also is featured for mental health specialists, farm safety grants, livestock processing and meat science, Second Harvest Heartland food banks, urban and youth agriculture grants, and farm-to-school programs.
A measure in the bill also continues biennial base spending of $700,000 for the Office of Broadband to help facilitate the appropriation of federal funds provided to expand broadband infrastructure to underserved and unserved portions of Minnesota.
There are more than a dozen finance bills in all and the hope is we can have a complete budget in place before the June 30 end of the fiscal year. Stay tuned for more as things take shape in St. Paul.