Joint budget targets and ag policy bill help fund broadband, reauthorize Farmer-Lender Mediation
May 17, 2021
This morning, Gov. Tim Walz, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, and Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman announced their global agreement on biannual budget targets. This followed an agreement for a limited agriculture policy bill over the weekend.
Both developments address priorities brought forward by Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) members.
“We know that the budget process has been difficult this year, with a divided Legislature, pandemic, and some strong differences when it comes to priorities,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “We appreciate the work that the Governor and legislative leaders put in to set budget targets and are encouraged to see new investment in agriculture on the table.”
Governor Walz and legislative leaders reached a global biannual budget agreement that includes:
- $10 million in new funding for agriculture.
- $70 million for border-to-border broadband development.
Though the regular legislative session adjourns today, negotiations about specific funding priorities and policy provisions will continue via informal working groups throughout the next two weeks in anticipation of a June 14 special session. You can read the broad, two-page deal here.
The Agriculture Conference Committee, led by co-chairs Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) and Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko), also reached agreement on limited agriculture policy provisions on Sunday, May 16. These were approved by both full chambers today and include:
- A 5-year reauthorization of the Farmer-Lender Mediation program, while retaining the 90-day timeline.
- A deal to help producers who sell food under Minnesota’s Cottage Food exemption from licensure by allowing LLCs to participate and allowing participants to sell pet treats.
- An exemption from licensure for people who process less than $20,000 of wild game or fowl (or up to 200 deer) per year.
- Adding another livestock producer to the Board of Animal Health and ensuring that at least one of the four producers on the board is a member of one of Minnesota’s 11 Native tribes.
- Requires a report on proposed changes to the Agricultural Chemical Response and Reimbursement Account (ACRRA) program and not increasing the program’s cap, which could result in increased costs for farmers.
- Other policy changes that can be found here.
“We’re especially pleased that Farmer-Lender Mediation is reauthorized in this policy bill,” President Wertish said. “We’d like to thank Rep. Todd Lippert (DFL-Northfield) for pushing for this program throughout the pandemic to support farmers in financial crisis.”
The full Senate approved this agreement on policy provisions unanimously this morning and the full House approved it 79-55 this afternoon.
The agriculture conference committee will continue to meet informally to reach agreement on spending priorities and other provisions though the next two weeks. Those provisions still to be resolved include MFU priorities such as:
- Expanding small and mid-scale meat and poultry processing.
- Biofuels infrastructure to expand the use of E15 and higher blends.
- Support for emerging farmers and assisting in land access and farm transitions.
- Expanding the Farm Advocate Program.
- Funding the noxious weed program.
- Expanding Farm to School and early care programs.
You can read about MFU’s priorities for in this letter to committee members here.
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Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Working for Farmers (www.mfu.org)