Budget Provides Needed Support for Small & Mid-sized Farms, but Maintains a Corporate-Centered Status Quo in MN Ag
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s two-year budget proposal was released Jan. 26. The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) applauds the measures included in this budget that require the wealthiest individuals and major corporations in our state to contribute their fair share to the public good. While this budget proposal includes many significant investments in the future of our state, in other respects it falls short of the transformative changes we need for our food and farming system and rural communities.
The Governor’s proposal adds an increased income tax rate for those households making over $1 million per year, as well as increases the corporate tax rate on large corporations. These are essential, deeply-needed measures in light of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which some individuals and corporations have vastly increased their wealth while many thousands of Minnesotans are struggling to get by. It is necessary to raise public revenue to fund the needs of people in our state, rather than allowing the wealthiest few to hoard resources at the expense of the common good. This budget asks for higher contributions from those who can most easily afford them, while at the same time reducing taxes for more than one million of the lowest-income households in the state.
The Governor’s proposed budget would use these revenues to invest in many important needs for Minnesota’s future, such as increased education funding, support for low-income families, and aid to small businesses. It supports a number of critical LSP priorities, including:
- Increased budget for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
- Significant investment in meat processing.
- Small increase in funding for the Farm Advocates Program, which works with farmers in financial stress.
- Increased focus on soil health.
- Creating a statewide paid family and medical leave program.
- Increased investment in youth civic engagement — addressing the age disparity in Minnesota’s voter participation.
However, the Governor’s proposed budget fails to match the scale of the needs of small and mid-sized farmers and rural Minnesotans and maintains a corporate-centered status quo in Minnesota agriculture. The Minnesota Legislature must build upon the Governor’s budget to ensure there are significant investments in aiding farmers in financial crisis, pass policies that address the root causes of the farm crisis, and invest in landscape-scale solutions to the climate crisis.
Investments in small and mid-sized, sustainable, and regenerative farming should be the bulk of the Governor’s agricultural budget across agencies. Sixty percent of the increase in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture budget goes toward biofuel investments. Imagine if those dollars went toward building a sustainable and just farm and food system that is more resilient for all of us? We need to invest in a farm and food system that fosters economic justice for farmers, builds resiliency from and mitigates the climate crisis, and nourishes our communities — not double down on existing systems that are unsustainable for farmers, rural communities, and the land.