Legislature, Gov. Walz work together to avert shutdown

Under the pressure of a state shutdown, the nation’s only divided legislature worked with Gov. Walz to sign the $52 billion biennial budget into law, just hours before the July 1 midnight deadline.

“Our COVID-19 Recovery Budget makes historic investments in students, small businesses, and ensures our communities are safe for all Minnesotans,” the governor wrote on Twitter Wednesday night. “It’s a budget that not only moves our state forward but builds us back better — and I’m proud to have signed it.”

On June 26, the governor signed the Agriculture Omnibus bill. COVID 19 laid bare a multitude of issues in Minnesota’s agriculture and food systems, including the need for increased meat processing capacity. The ag omnibus bill includes funding for meat inspection and small meat processors, as well as funding for a new meat scientist at the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, meat cutting curriculum at Central Lakes College, and a mobile meat cutting facility that will service both students and small producers. Funding for the Northern Crops Institute ($94,000) was also included in the bill, following a strong advocacy push from the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.

“We’re thankful we’re not seeing any additional pesticide fees,” MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek said. “Some years you’re grateful for things that aren’t in the bill.”

Additionally, the bill provides funding for biofuels infrastructure, an increase in the Bioincentive Program, and increases for the Urban Agriculture Program, the Good Food Access Program, and Farm to School Program. The bill also establishes an Emerging Farmers Office and provides ongoing funding for translation services for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Emerging Farmer Working Group. The bill also has a significant investment in farm outreach and rural mental health, and provides funding to combat noxious weeds.

“These bills will fuel our clean energy transition, providing jobs and clean air for generations to come; support the next generation of Minnesota’s workforce by investing in our students; keep our parks, trails, and waters clean and vibrant; and help maintain the strength of our agriculture industry,” Walz said.

The Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants & Pest Center received $5 million in the Environment and Natural Resource Policy and Finance bill. Earlier in the session, MSGA sent a letter to the legislators advocating for financial support for the MITPPC.

“We appreciate the legislative process takes time, and commend the legislature and Gov. Walz for working together to pass an agriculture omnibus bill that will help our members across the state,” MSGA President Jamie Beyer said. “This was an unusual session, of course, and although we’re disappointed by the Clean Cars rule, we were able to advocate in new ways and are pleased to see a number of our policy priorities included in the ag bill.”

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