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RELEASE: House Ag Committee approves budget strengthening farming and food production in Minnesota

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota House Agriculture Committee approved its 2022 finance bill. The legislation delivers new funding for a variety of important initiatives to strengthen farming and food production including areas such as soil health, noxious weed and invasive plant species eradication, pollinator protection, cover crop development, and new opportunities for farmers market vendors. The bill includes investments in small meat cutters and processors, support for hunger relief, financial assistance to emerging farmers, and more.

“Everyone deserves access to healthy, nutritious food, and Minnesota’s farmers and food producers play critical roles in feeding Minnesotans and those across the globe. The investments in this budget look to the future of agriculture, including support of smaller operations and specialty crop producers,” said Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL – Esko), committee chair and bill author. “Our committee has developed these comprehensive solutions with a wide range of perspectives at the table, building on our past successes while helping us look forward. As we help farmers and producers overcome difficulties like last year’s drought and COVID-19-related issues, as well as new problems like Avian Influenza, House DFLers are committed to a broad, diverse, and successful base of farmers to support our strong ag tradition in Minnesota.”

The bill invests a total of $60 million in the current biennium for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, with an additional $15 million for the next biennium. Investments include $9.5 million for the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Initiative. Of that total, $5 million is for equipment and physical infrastructure to support breeding and agronomic research on perennial and winter-annual crops. Additionally, $9 million worth of grants will be available to develop continuous living cover crops and cropping systems, including Kernza, winter camelina, hybrid hazelnuts, and elderberry.

Other investments include $2 million to address noxious weeds and invasive plant species, $1.5 million to create and implement a program to support farmers markets and direct marketing producers, $100,000 for lab testing for the Minnesota meat and poultry inspection program, $6.725 million for the soil health financial assistance, $2 million for the pollinator research, and $425,000 for a food safety program analysis. The bill also includes a prohibition on plastic-coated fertilizers and pesticides and regulates seed treated with a neonicotinoid pesticide

The budget funds an $8 million increase for Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation programs, including increases for Good Food Access, Urban and Youth Ag, and Farm to School grants, $3 million in bioincentive payments, and $300,000 more for Farm Business Management tuition assistance.

To support emerging farmers and food-system-related businesses, the bill includes $2 million for technical and culturally appropriate services. The bill establishes a down payment assistance program, providing up to $15,000 for Minnesotans who are purchasing a farm. To help Minnesotans experiencing food insecurity, the bill invests $3 million in grants to Second Harvest Heartland.

The bill continues efforts to expand availability for meat and poultry processing along with career pathways in the field with $3 million for meat processing facility grants, $500,000 for MinnState meat cutting programs, $500,000 for grants to secondary career and technical education programs in meat-cutting and butchery, $100,000 for grants and other assistance to small meat and poultry processors. To help prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease among Minnesota’s wild deer population, the bill includes a moratorium on new whitetailed deer farms.

The bill will next be considered by the House Ways and Means Committee. Information and documents from the hearing are available on the committee webpage, and video will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.