AGRICULTURE

BUDGET

Minnesota agriculture has been hit by low commodity prices, tariffs, and extreme weather. These elements have pushed many farmers to the brink financially and emotionally. In response, the Legislature and Governor Walz focused on expanding mental health resources, protecting the agriculture industry from illness and invasive plants, and providing help for dairy farmers.

Governor Walz and the House DFL had dedicated more resources for agriculture and rural housing during the budget process. The DFL position pushed Senate Republicans to provide $29 million in additional funding for agriculture, housing, and rural development from their original position. (SF 1)

Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture received a cut of $454,000 under the Senate Republican Budget, while Governor Walz and the House DFL both appropriated over $4 million for the agency. The investments DFLers made were to protect the agriculture industry from noxious weeds, expand access to mental health for farmers, emergency preparedness, plant pathogens, and expanding the availability of agricultural markets for farmers. Fortunately, the work of DFLers resulted in the conference committee receiving a target of $3.905 million in general fund money where many of the priorities outlined in Governor’s Walz budget were funded. (SF 1)

Housing

Senate Republicans did not provide any additional money for housing in their proposal. Instead, they cut proven programs (Challenge Program) to fund their priorities relative to manufacture housing. Governor Walz and the House DFL appropriated $16 million more than the base funding. The conference committee reached an agreement of $15 million in new spending over the base budget. Important programs that were funded as a result of DFLers’ work include Homework Starts with Home, Family Homeless Prevention, and rental assistance. (SF 1)

Rural development – broadband

Access to broadband has received a lot of attention over the past several years. Understanding its importance in commerce, telemedicine, and quality of life, Governor Walz and House DFLers dedicated $70 million in the biennium for Border-to-Border Broadband Grants, whereas, the Senate Republicans dedicated only $30 million. Ultimately, the conference committee agreed to appropriate $40 million over the biennium. (SF 1)

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POLICY PROVISIONS

Grain buyers oversight

New laws would require that a person licensed to buy grain be subject to examination by the Department of Agriculture for each licensed location. Additionally, a grain buyer is subject to an audit or CPA’s review of a financial statement depending on the amount of grain purchased in a year. (SF 1)

Industrial hemp

Interest in industrial hemp has exploded across the country. Applications are up from 65 in 2018 to over 300 already in 2019. The new language would change the definition of hemp and the agency is given enhanced rulemaking to foster growth in the industry. Minnesota producers need efficient and comprehensive support as these crops come to market. (SF 1)

Disaster Recovery Loan Program

Language signed into law expands what qualifies as a disaster for the Disaster Recovery Loan Program under the purview of the Rural Finance Authority. This expansion is designed to help dairy farmers’ problems, which have been compounded with snowfall being responsible for collapsing barns and limiting the transportation of milk across the state. (SF 2225)

Definition of pastures altered

The new language allows for sacrificial areas to be used on pastures in extraordinary situations for a short period of time not to exceed 90 days. (SF 1)

New agriculture reports required

Three reports were adopted to determine how to best support emerging farmers. Another report will look at how to regulate the procession and use of tetrahydrocannabinol created by the result of hemp processing. The last report will develop recommendations regarding the regulatory oversight of nursery stock labeled as beneficial to bees. (SF 1)

Landlord/Tenant changes

A landlord with 12 or more units must provide a written lease that specifies the unit the tenant will rent. The written lease must contain the start date and end date if it is not the first or last day of the month, and if the rent is prorated, that must also be included. All this information is required to be on the first page of the lease. (SF 1)

Division of housing resources

New language was adopted for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to award grants and loans with reasonable balance between the metro and rural areas to the extent practicable. Additionally, the guiding priories were altered on how the housing pool allocates its resources. (SF 1)

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