Expanding mental health outreach. Building online tools to track and license hemp growers. Establishing a market for Minnesota agricultural products in East Asia.
The department’s proposed $250 million budget in the 2022-23 biennium would promote and regulate Minnesota farm and food products and allow prompt response to diseases and pests that threaten state resources, leaders said.
It also would allow for continued innovation, farmer support and regulation of feed mills and fertilizer plants.
The budget would largely build on the one approved for the 2020-21 biennium. Noteworthy proposals for new spending include:
Mark Abrahamson, director of the department's Plant Protection Division, said the appropriation for the noxious weed program would help continue state efforts to reduce the spread of nonnative weeds and pests.
Another $50,000 would go to completing the online tool for managing hemp licensing and data, he said, adding that hemp growers already face significant fees and shouldn't have to pay more.
Other new funds include $40,000 for the Farm Advocate program, through which farmers in need of support are paired with experienced farmers. Deputy Commissioner Andrea Vaubel said the department could use an additional advocate, particularly in Southwest Minnesota.