SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Agriculture and Broadband budget bill following a bipartisan compromise reached with the Senate. The legislation, which funds the operations of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Board of Animal Health, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), and the Office of Broadband Development, includes new strategies and investments to strengthen farming and food production in Minnesota.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly challenging for farmers and food producers, and I’m proud of this budget agreement which not only supports key resources to help them bounce back, but invests in the next generation of farming in our state,” said Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL – Esko), chair of the House Agriculture Committee. “The budget invests in opportunities to develop new markets, supports efforts to continue addressing climate change, soil health, and water quality, and helps ensure we have a growing diversity of farmers equipped to contribute to our communities. This budget is the result of a collaborative effort that recognizes all Minnesotans depend on fresh food to live healthy lives, and healthy, sustainable agriculture and food production industries are critical to our success.”
The legislation includes several key priorities House DFLers included in the original House Agriculture Budget including increased funding for emerging farmer outreach at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Urban and Youth Agriculture program, the Farm-to-School initiative, the Good Food Access program, the Ag Best Management Practices program (AgBMP), and new investments in small-scale meat processing. To help struggling farmers, the agreement increases investments in the Farm Advocate program, with $150,000 specifically targeted toward farm transitions. To better compensate advanced and renewable biochemical and biofuel producers, the budget increases bioincentive payments by $1.5 million per year.
“Minnesota farmers and our agricultural communities must be successful for Minnesota to be successful,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Agriculture is a major economic driver in our state. Our final budget invests in farmers and their families to ensure our agriculture and food production industries emerge stronger after the pandemic.”
Among other items, the budget also funds:
· Second Harvest Heartland grants for milk and protein purchases
· The state’s noxious weed and invasive plant program
· International trade efforts
· Farm safety grants
· Mental health outreach
· Livestock production grants
· Restoration of AURI’s Meat Scientist position
· Replacement of aging lab equipment at MDA
· An increase in the Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) budget at MDA
· Meat and poultry inspections
· Reimbursement for wolf depredation and elk damage
“Republican politicians are fighting for powerful corporations making record profits instead of the family farmers who have sustained Minnesotans for generations,” said Majority Leader Winkler. “We can create new opportunities for Minnesotans of all backgrounds to thrive in our ag economy if we change the status quo.”
In reaching a compromise, Senate Republicans refused to agree to continue funding Market Bucks, a program that helps low-income Minnesotans purchase fresh food at farmers markets. The final budget also didn’t include new requirements for seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, the Climate Smart Farms program, and a new fee on gross pesticide sales, which were all provisions the House originally included in its budget. Additionally, while the budget funds operations for the Office of Broadband Development, funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program will be considered separately in a capital investment funding package.
A spreadsheet of the investments contained within the legislation is available here. The bill will next travel to the Senate for that body’s consideration. Video of the House Floor session will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.