Senate passes drought relief bill

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Senate today unanimously passed $8.5 million in drought relief in addition to $1.5 million to respond to the avian influenza outbreak that has thus far been found in five Minnesota counties.

“This is great news for Minnesota family farmers who suffered through last summer’s drought,” said Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) President Gary Wertish. “The additional funding for avian influenza response is also appreciated as poultry producers grapple with this emerging threat.”

The bill, Senate File (SF) 3479 is sponsored by Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee. It targets $5.5 million to support livestock farmers and $1.5 million for livestock farmers and specialty crop producers. An additional $1.5 million is appropriated to the Rural Finance Authority (RFA) for disaster recovery loans.

The bill allocates $1 million to the University of Minnesota to purchase equipment for the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to test for avian influenza, chronic wasting disease, African swine fever or other animal diseases. In addition, $500,000 is transferred to the agricultural emergency account for avian influenza testing supplies.

On March 22, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved the relief package. On March 10, the House passed House File (HF) 3420, sponsored by House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Sundin, DFL-Esko, by a bipartisan 101-33 vote. The bill expands eligibility for the RFA Disaster Recovery Loan Program, appropriates money for rapid response grants to eligible farmers, and provides additional funding for drought-relief loans.

The bills passed in the House and Senate now move to conference committee where legislators from both chambers will iron out differences between their respective bills. Following that, the proposal will need to be again approved by the full House and Senate before going to the governor for his signature.

Minnesota Farmers Union first called for a drought relief package that includes rapid response grants in August. In September, Wertish joined Gov. 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 Jan. 31.

About Minnesota Farmers Union

Minnesota Farmers Union works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. MFU is a nonprofit membership-based organization. Membership is open to everyone. Learn more and join at and follow MFU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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