Agriculture budget bill sees improvement

The 2021 Agriculture Omnibus Budget Bill this week saw vast improvements, thanks to hard fought wins from Senate DFLers.

The pandemic has been difficult for everyone across the state, but especially so for our farmers. The state’s meat processing plants struggled as workers contracted COVID-19 and plants had to be closed for cleaning and quarantine, leaving farmers with nowhere to send their animals to be processed. Financial problems cropped up with the economic downturn, and the mental health of farmers suffered even more – all this on top of trade wars, global competition, and the other challenges our farmers face every day.

Despite all of these difficulties faced by farmers the agriculture budget bill as originally passed by the Senate had $40 million for broadband and no new funding for investing in our state’s farmers.

It was only after Senate DFLers worked with the DFL House and Governor Walz that we were able to increase the budget target for agriculture, allowing us to invest in mental health resources for farmers, biofuels, emerging farmers, and urban agriculture, and more.

Senate Republicans, unfortunately, have been unwilling to acknowledge the harm they are doing by eliminating the state’s Market Bucks Program.

Market Bucks is a farmers market incentive program designed to help SNAP customers increase their

purchasing power at farmers markets. SNAP customers can use their EBT card at 99 participating

market locations and receive a dollar-for-dollar match on all SNAP spending at the market, up to $10.

Market Bucks increase the amount of fresh, local food SNAP customers can purchase and helps

bring new customers to farmers markets throughout the state.

The state has invested nearly $2 million in this very effective program since it started in 2016. Senate Republicans have chosen to cut this program, raising false concerns about double dipping in the program and its efficacy.

SNAP customers spent $276,920 in SNAP/EBT and $184,365 in Market Bucks during the 2020 summer farmer’s market season, creating $619,474 in additional economic activity in communities throughout the state. This program helps Minnesotans help put fresh produce – from broccoli and carrots to apples and rhubarb – on their table while also investing in our local farmers. We have and will continue to fight to restore this program before the end of special session.

Senate DFLers are also working to secure $70 million for border-to-border broadband investments.

The bill moved forward this week and Senate DFLers will continue to fight for Minnesota’s farmers as we head into negotiations and work to pass a budget during special session. (SF 25)