Legislation Seeks to Fully Fund Groundbreaking U of M Forever Green Initiative

Research is Developing Crops that Help Farmers Profitably Clean up Water

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Bills have been introduced in the Minnesota House and Senate that would fully fund the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Initiative, a program employing cutting-edge research focused on developing cover cropping and perennial plant systems that keep the land covered 365-days-a-year. Ongoing support for Forever Green is a priority for the Land Stewardship Project (LSP), which has successfully obtained funding for the initiative in past legislative sessions.

“It’s critical that our state publicly invests in the long-term, complex research that’s needed for farmers to clean our water and improve our soil health in a financially viable way,” said Loretta Jaus, an LSP board member and dairy farmer from Gibbon, Minn.

The Senate Bill is SF 134. The House version is HF 962 and its chief author is Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-Saint Peter).

“The Forever Green Initiative represents public research at the University of Minnesota that is both agricultural and economic; but we cannot also forget that these new crops will most likely provide a significant soil conservation benefit," said Rep. Brand. "For these reasons, I’m asking the Minnesota Legislature to continue funding this public research program."

During the past few years, the Forever Green Initiative has shown the exciting potential of utilizing “continuous living cover” to build soil health profitably. For example, pennycress, an annual crop that overwinters, can be seeded after corn or soybeans are harvested in the fall. It provides protection for soil during the fall, winter and spring and produces high-value oil and protein meal from unused fertilizer and water that would otherwise be wasted. It also naturally suppresses weeds and supports honeybees and other pollinators.

The newly introduced legislation seeks $5 million per year for the program. Fully funded, the Forever Green Initiative has the potential to make Minnesota a leader in developing farming systems that provide year-round protection for the state’s soil while producing profitable marketing options for farmers and transforming the rural landscape, according to LSP member and Gaylord, Minn., farmer Darrel Mosel.

“In this farm economy and climate, now more than ever, our state must lead the way to developing crops that are good for the land and good for our farmers,” said Mosel.