Surrounded by lawmakers and Minnesota farmers, Gov. Tim Walz signed the bipartisan Agriculture, Broadband and Rural Development Bill into law on May 18.
“We appreciate lawmakers working together to pass an ag bill in a timely fashion,” said Bob Worth, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. “While we didn’t see all our priorities make it into the ag budget, we’re pleased that many issues we support were included in this bill.”
The bill increases General Fund spending for agriculture programs and personnel by $148 million in the next biennial, including $100 million more to the Office of Broadband Development. A centerpiece of the budget is $10 million toward starting a grain indemnity fund, which would offer farmers recompense if an elevator goes bankrupt.
“Agriculture is central to our state’s identity, and this bipartisan law will empower Minnesota’s farmers, ranchers, and producers to succeed for years in the future,” the governor said. “From protecting producers with the state’s first grain indemnity fund to making a $100 million investment in expanding high-speed broadband and supporting Minnesota’s emerging farmers, this budget provides security for our farmers and producers and ensures we can continue growing and innovating in our nation-leading agriculture industry.”
Other highlights in the ag omnibus bill include:
- $4 million for the Dairy Assistance Investment and Relief Initiative;
- $2 million for meat processing grants;
- $1.25 million for soil health equipment;
- $1.6 million toward noxious weed grants to combat invasive species and protect Minnesota crops;
- $300,000 to increase MDA’s international trade staff to support International Trade Manager Jeffrey Phillips and grow markets for Minnesota agricultural products – a policy priority introduced by MSGA and other state commodity groups.
During the session, Worth and several MSGA directors testified in front of committee members and advocated on a range of issues, from protecting pesticides to promoting biodiesel to raising awareness to the damage deer can cause to farm fields. MSGA also held its annual Hill Visits in March.
“Our team worked very hard this session,” Worth said. “Our lobbying team did a tremendous job making the best out of some difficult circumstances.”
Several bills still need to pass, including a deal on taxes, in time for the session’s May 22 deadline. In the version passed this week in the Senate, the ag homestead tax credit – a top MSGA policy priority – was included. The governor is expected to sign the tax bill in the coming days.