On Friday, the Senate approved the final comprehensive agriculture, rural development, and affordable housing budget bill championed by Senate Republicans. The budget places an emphasis on rural broadband expansion, invests in affordable manufactured housing and home ownership, prioritizes value-added agriculture opportunities that directly impact farmers, and increases resources for farmer mental health services.
“The financial burden on farmers around the state is growing and this bill takes action to counteract the obstacles they are facing,” said Senator Mike Goggin (R-Red Wing). “We focused on farmers this session, funding relief, expanding broadband, and most importantly, increasing access to mental health treatment. For Minnesota to thrive, we must continue to support our farmers and their families.”
Specifically, the bill includes a $5 million one-time investment in an innovative soybean processing and research facility near the University of Minnesota – Crookston that aims to increase profitability for soybean farmers. Additionally, the legislation makes a $5 million one-time investment in the Dairy Assistance Investment Relief Initiative (DAIRI) to provide financial aid to dairy farmers who are facing historically low milk prices.
A provision authored by Senator Goggin is also included in the bill. The farm-to-school language supports farmers and improves student access to local fruits and vegetables. Both schools and childcare facilities can participate in this program. “Getting our students good, healthy food will give them the proper foundation to start healthy eating habits early,” added Senator Goggin. “An added benefit is the partnership with local farmers. It’s a win-win.”
Further, the bill funds the Minnesota Border-to-Border Rural Broadband expansion program at $40 million over the next two years, a significant increase in the legislature’s appropriation over the last biennium.
Additionally, the budget legislation prioritizes the most affordable forms of housing in Minnesota and places an emphasis on workforce housing and home ownership. Moreover, the legislation includes reforms to ensure each taxpayer dollar allocated for housing resources is spent wisely, cost effectively, and according to its purpose as outlined by the legislature. Lastly, the bill makes a significant investment in homeless prevention programs, such as the Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program (FHPAP), Homework Starts with Home, which provides assistance to Minnesota families with school-aged children, and the Bridges program that helps adults struggling with mental illness maintain affordable housing.