Walz offers $ 10 million drought relief program for farmers

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Gov. Tim Walz on Friday proposed a $ 10 million relief plan for farmers who have suffered losses from drought in much of Minnesota this summer – a plan that would require a special legislative session to be approved.

The Democratic governor’s proposal includes $ 5 million in rapid response grants to ranchers and growers of specialty crops for the costs of water-related equipment such as reservoirs, pipelines, wells, water wagons and irrigation equipment. It also includes $ 5 million for zero-rated disaster recovery loans for losses not covered by insurance.

“They have to make decisions now. They need to know it’s going to be there, ”Walz said at a press conference at a farm near Hastings.

But Walz said he still insisted Senate Republicans agree not to fire Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm if he reminds lawmakers for a special session that was already in the works for a $ 250 million bonus for frontline workers in the COVID-19 pandemic. Negotiators for the Democratic GOP majorities in the House and Senate and the Walz administration missed a Labor Day target for agreeing on which workers most deserve and how much money they should to receive.

So far, Republicans have not backed down from the threat of using Senate confirmation powers to oust Malcolm from the administration’s response to the pandemic. Walz called on them to “put politics and things aside” and do both without ousting his health commissioner.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller of Winona backed the drought relief plan and said the Senate would work with Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen and his team “to find a bipartisan solution to provide support to drought-stricken Minnesota farmers ”. But Miller’s statement was silent on the fate of the Health Commissioner. Miller said in a statement last week that Walz should not tie frontline worker bonuses to other issues.

Petersen told reporters that pastoralists have been forced by the severe to exceptional drought to make difficult decisions about whether to keep or sell their herds due to poor grazing conditions and high fodder costs. He said the proposal will not make farmers whole, but he called it a starting point. He said it primarily targets livestock and specialty crop producers as they don’t have the same safety net programs as other farmers.

Drought conditions have eased somewhat due to recent rains. This week’s US Drought Monitor report shows that about 50% of Minnesota is still in severe to extreme drought, up from about 88% in mid-August. While Minnesota no longer has exceptional drought areas, the worst category, farmers across much of the state still expect severe losses.

Petersen said the proposal called for grants of up to $ 5,000, with the first $ 1 million earmarked for livestock and specialty crop producers until officials have a better idea of ​​demand. He said they would work to make sure that beginner farmers and those selling in farmers’ markets have access. He said the $ 5 million for loans would replenish an existing fund that currently holds less than $ 3 million.

Dan Glessing, vice president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau and dairy farmer for Waverly, said the challenges were just beginning for many producers. He said the silage he will be feeding his cows in the coming months is not as good as it should be, so he will have to buy supplements to add protein and energy to them. food.

Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, called for a deal soon.

“The more families we have on the farm, the stronger our rural communities and the stronger our state,” Wertish said.


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