Governor Walz signs Agriculture and Broadband bill into law

(ABC 6 News) – Governor Tim Walz visited a farm in Finlayson, Minnesota, to sign the agriculture and broadband bill into law.

The bill includes a $100 million investment to expand high-speed broadband, establishes a grain indemnity fund to protect grain producers, and strengthens the state’s work to help aspiring farmers and producers succeed. Governor Walz was joined by local farmers, legislators, and leaders in the agriculture and broadband industries. Photos from today’s event are attached and available on Flickr.

“Agriculture is central to our state’s identity, and this bipartisan law will empower Minnesota’s farmers, ranchers, and producers to succeed for years in the future,” said Governor Walz. “From protecting producers with the state’s first grain indemnity fund to making a $100 million investment in expanding high-speed broadband and supporting Minnesota’s emerging farmers, this budget provides security for our farmers and producers and ensures we can continue growing and innovating in our nation-leading agriculture industry.”

“I am so excited for the work we will get done for farmers, producers, and rural communities across the state with this budget. By expanding our work to support Minnesota’s emerging farmers, we’re removing barriers and investing in the future of agriculture right here in Minnesota,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “We know broadband isn’t a nice to have – it’s a must have. By investing $100 million in expanding high-speed broadband, we’re working to close the digital divide and make reliable internet accessible to every Minnesotan – no matter where you live.”

Highlights of Chapter 43, Senate File 1955 include:

Grain Indemnity Fund

The bill includes $10 million to establish the state’s first grain indemnity fund, providing protections and security for producers who have unpaid grain sales when grain buyers or warehouses become financially insolvent.

Support for Emerging Farmers

The bill includes funding to expand the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Emerging Farmers Office, which allows additional staff to focus on the needs of emerging farmers, and immigrant and BIPOC producers and business owners. The new funding will help the department remove barriers that prevent new or potential farmers from entering the field or succeeding.

Expanding High-Speed Broadband

The bill includes $100 million to expand high-speed broadband and help achieve the state’s goal of ensuring everyone has access to high-speed broadband across the state. This investment will supplement federal funding allocated to Minnesota under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

Soil Health Equipment Grants

The bill provides $1.25 million to build on the new Soil Health Financial Assistance Program that began as a pilot in 2022. The grants will help farmers implement soil health management practices by awarding funds to access specialized equipment and machinery.

Forever Green Initiative

The bill includes funding to the University of Minnesota to support the Forever Green Initiative. The initiative brings together researchers, local groups, private-sector partners, and non-profits to advance and commercialize new high value commodity crops for conservation purposes.

Good Acre LEAFF Program

The bill provides funding to support The Good Acre’s Local Emergency Assistance Farmer Fund (LEAFF) which provides underserved farmers with new market channels by paying market-rate prices for their produce, all of which is then donated to hunger-relief organizations across Minnesota.

DAIRI Program

The bill provides $4 million for the Dairy Assistance, Investment, Relief Initiative (DAIRI). The program provides financial assistance to Minnesota dairy cow operations that produced less than 16,000,000 lbs. of milk in 2022 and that enrolled in the Dairy Margin Coverage Program, a federal dairy risk protection program.

Supporting Farm Safety, Health, and Wellness

The bill will fund farm safety outreach and equipment cost-share payments to farmers; stress and mental health outreach, promotion, and support to farmers and others in the agricultural community; and a pass-through grant to the Minnesota FFA Foundation to engage FFA chapters in creating innovative education, training, or outreach projects that respond to community needs to mitigate stress and promote mental health.

Replenishing the Ag Emergency Account

The bill includes $1 million in fiscal year 2024 to replenish the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Ag Emergency Account, ensuring the agency is ready to respond to ag-related emergencies in a timely manner.