The Potluck

$10 million drought relief package for farmers taking shape but timing uncertain

By: - October 12, 2021 12:45 pm

Produce from Prairie Hollow Farm at the Mill City Farmers Market. Photo by Madeline Deninger/Minnesota Reformer.

Lawmakers on Tuesday heard details of Gov. Tim Walz’s $10 million drought-relief plan for farmers, readying a package to pass when the Legislature next meets.

For much of summer, Minnesota experienced drought conditions. In mid-August, nearly 90% of Minnesota was under severe drought conditions. Northern Minnesota was most affected, said Agriculture Commissioner Thom Peterson. 

Half of Walz’s $10 million plan would provide public funding for grants to livestock producers and specialty crop growers. The remainder would be used for zero-interest loans.

Drought relief has emerged as top priority for lawmakers who are currently deadlocked in negotiations with Walz over a special legislative session that would address a growing list of issues.. 

The Legislature was initially due to convene last month to approve the distribution of $250 million pandemic bonus pay to essential workers, but partisan differences remain. 

Walz says he won’t call lawmakers back without prior agreement from Senate Republicans that they would not hold a confirmation vote to oust his health commissioner, Jan Malcolm.

State Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, said he would ask that any financial aid to farmers should be based on need, saying farmers should demonstrate actual financial losses to qualify. 

Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, said farmers have had to cull herds because they were unable to feed their livestock.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.