House committee passes drought relief bill

Today, theMinnesota House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committeeunanimously passed a drought relief package first proposed by Gov. Walz.

“This is welcome news for Minnesota farmers who are struggling to recover from last year’s drought,” said Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) President Gary Wertish. “Last summer, nearly 80 percent of Minnesota’s landscape was in severe drought, which stunted the growth of conventional and specialty crops, dried up water sources for livestock and deteriorated pasture used for haying and grazing. At present, 70 percent of the state is still abnormally dry, which makes this assistance even more important.”

The bill, House File (HF) 3420, is sponsored by House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Sundin, DFL-Esko. The bill expands eligibility for the Rural Finance Authority (RFA) Disaster Recovery Loan Program, appropriates money for rapid response grants to eligible farmers, and provides additional funding for drought-relief loans.

Minnesota Farmers Union first called for a drought relief package that includes rapid response grants in August. In September, Wertish joined Walz at an event announcing the drought aid package and in October, Wertish testified at a House hearing on the drought. MFU has continued to advocate for drought relief since the session began last month.

“I am grateful to see the House take bipartisan action to move this bill forward quickly and thank Chair Sundin for his strong leadership. I look forward to a vote soon on the House floor,” Wertish said. “I’m hopeful the Senate will soon take action on this proposal to provide needed relief to family farmers.”