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Bills pass with the finances and the safety of rural Minnesota in mind

Mankato KEYC-TV logo Mankato KEYC-TV 5/20/2020 Alison Durheim
a truck driving down a dirt road: “The legislative session just ended Sunday night at midnight and we were able to get a couple agricultural bills through,” said Whitney Place, assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. © Alison Durheim “The legislative session just ended Sunday night at midnight and we were able to get a couple agricultural bills through,” said Whitney Place, assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

(KEYC) — Several bills passed this past weekend with the finances and the safety of rural Minnesota in mind.

“The legislative session just ended Sunday night at midnight and we were able to get a couple agricultural bills through,” said Whitney Place, assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

The Omnibus Ag Finance Bill and the Omnibus Ag Policy bill passed, putting the safety and the financial security of Minnesota’s farmers and ranchers at the forefront.

“Especially in the finance bill, the legislature wanted us to prioritize some of our value-added grants and those oftentimes go to meat processors and while those plants are opening and closing and the market is uncertain for some of our producers, we wanted to make sure to get some of those local meat processing facilities up and running and able to take on more livestock,” said Place.

Funding in the bill is also going toward food assistance grants to assist grocery stores when complying with CDC guidelines as well as funding for obstacles the agriculture industries faced before COVID-19.

“The legislature did provide additional funding for work like rural mental health work and for our farm advocates program and that’s a program that we have farm advocates in the state of Minnesota that can help farmers work through their financial challenges,” said Place.

The Ag Policy Bill had a focus on improving safety around the farm.

“You know this year, unfortunately, we saw a lot of grain bin accidents in Minnesota and we were really grateful for one family in particular for wanting to push some legislative action after they lost a loved one so what we did get is an additional $100,000 at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to provide grants to farmers for both grain bin safety equipment and roll-over protection structures,” said Place.

It also includes provisions to the hemp program.

“Right now, we’re in a pilot program in Minnesota, but next year we have to go out of the pilot program so producers locations of their growing facilities or their fields of hemp would not have been protected, so we added that to the hemp statute,” said Place.

Also in the policy bill, the microloan program for beginning farmers increased the max for the program from $10,000 to $20,0000.

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