Senator Tina Smith hears farm bill priorities

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(ABC 6 News) -Senator Tina Smith and local leaders met at People’s Energy Cooperative in Oronoco to discuss priorities for the 2023 farm bill.

There were leaders from county government, local energy co-ops, and organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

There are three main takeaways from the event. One is getting broadband and high-speed internet into rural communities.

The next is transitioning into clean energy. Co-ops expressed some difficulty in getting energy from clean sources like solar or wind, onto their power grids.

Much of the conversation revolved around affordable housing. Leaders say oftentimes the area median income (AMI) is too high to qualify for programs available in the previous farm bills.

However, they also say that leaves a lot of families with low income, with no assistance at all.

“Without access to a safe, affordable place to live, small towns and rural communities don’t work. This is an economic development issue as well as an issue for families who need a place to live,” Smith said.

Smith also says in a time when the agriculture industry is struggling for workers, they need to be opening doors for young, new farmers that may not have access to generational wealth.

“There are so many barriers to entry into agriculture. The cost of equipment, the cost of land. Even just finding access to land. Even if you can’t buy it and you just are going to be renting it,” she added.

The farm bill is an important piece of legislation, as it’s only renegotiated every five years.