SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Three Minnesota farm groups are applauding Governor Tim Walz’s budget proposals for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Board of Water and Soil Resources, which were released this week. The proposals strongly align with the vision for a thriving, abundant, and resilient countryside shared by the Land Stewardship Project (LSP), Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), and the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association (MFMA), said leaders of these three groups.
The proposal includes:
• $12 million for a Minnesota Department of Agriculture healthy soils program to provide grants and technical assistance to landowners, local governments and other organizations.
• $26 million for a Board of Water and Soil Resources healthy soils program to provide grants and technical assistance to landowners, local governments and other organizations to plant cover crops, enroll conservation tillage, purchase equipment, purchase seed and amendments, or implement other field-scale conservation practices.
• $22 million for Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
• $3 million for the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Initiative to create four pilot programs to establish supply chains for year-round crops, which will include risk management, post-production, processing, distribution and marketing.
• $2 million for services for Black, brown, and Indigenous producers and businesses.
• $1 million for Food and Agriculture Systems Planning Grants to local governments, regional planning organizations, and tribes to implement agriculture economic development plans, such as amendments to zoning ordinances, adding co-packing and community kitchens, and providing land to disadvantaged farmers.
• $500,000 for providing scholarships to agriculture workers involved in mediation and urban and specialty crops.
• $3 million for grants to livestock processors to purchase equipment and expand facilities.
• $1.5 million for meat processing employee recruitment and retention incentives.
• $5 million for drought relief to livestock and specialty crop farmers.
• $5 million for Rural Finance Authority loans for drought, including for small and beginning farmers.
“Small scale immigrant and emerging farmers are vital to our local food system and we are proud to have the Governor’s agricultural budget support and recognize their effort,” said Hmong American Farmers Association executive director Janssen Hang. “This proposal provides equitable access and opportunities for emerging farmers to be innovative in their approach, while enhancing and building a stronger, vibrant food and farming economy.
In the face of extreme weather, degrading topsoil, and economic challenges, major public investments in farming that provides public benefits will pay off now and well into the future, according to Hannah Bernhardt, a Pine County livestock farmer and member of the Land Stewardship Project’s Soil Health & Climate Steering Committee.
“Farmers deserve to have all the resources and support they need to build the health of their soil,” she said. “The Governor’s proposal is an investment in the resiliency of the land, the economic viability of our farmers and rural communities, and the health of our climate and water.”
The COVID-19 pandemic also pulled back the curtain to reveal how fragile our food system currently is. Expanding local and regional processing and markets is more important than ever, according to Kathy Zeman, executive director of the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association.
“We are super appreciative that Governor Walz’s administration and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture asked for input and listened to the concerns and needs of Minnesota’s food farmers and food makers,” she said. “This budget proposal includes solid support across our foodshed that will help make Minnesota much more resilient in growing food and feeding our people. We look forward to the conversations to secure this funding.”