SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Tuesday, the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee held a public hearing to learn more about the impact of this year’s drought on Minnesota’s agriculture industry and food supply. In mid-August, nearly 90% of the state was under severe drought conditions, representing one of the most significant droughts in decades.
“This year’s drought has led to an unthinkable hardship for Minnesota farmers. Our agriculture industry is still working to recover from difficulties associated with the pandemic, and the drought conditions have created more of an uphill climb,” Rep. Sundin said. “Looking ahead to a potential special session, I’m hopeful we can work together in a bipartisan fashion to quickly deliver assistance. Governor Walz’s plan will help many of our struggling farmers and livestock producers navigate this crisis so they can maintain their operations and keep feeding our state.”
As a result of the drought, crop growers have experienced lower yields and reduced crop quality, pastures of livestock producers and dairy farmers have dried up, and thousands of acres of harvestable hay have been lost. While conditions have improved with recent rainfall, impacts are continuing into the fall and winter, especially due to hay shortages.
Recently, Governor Walz announced a $10 million drought assistance package, including $5 million in rapid response grants for livestock producers and specialty crop producers. The other $5 million is for the Rural Finance Authority’s Disaster Recovery Loan Program, offering zero-interest loans for Minnesota farmers whose operations are suffering from lack of rain, helping cover expenses not covered by insurance. Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen and Deputy Commissioner Andrea Vaubel discussed the governor’s proposal as well as the state’s response to the drought.
The committee also heard a presentation about the state’s aquaculture industry and a proposal to create a statewide aquaculture plan for the raising of fish, shrimp, bait, and other aquatic life. Legislators heard input from officials from the Minnesota Aquaculture Association, the University of Minnesota’s Extension and Minnesota Sea Grant, the Agriculture Utilization Research Institute, and other organizations working toward the development of a resilient, sustainable aquaculture industry.