The Budget for One Minnesota announced by Governor Walz this week focuses, in part, on agricultural trade and rural mental health resources for Minnesota farm families. The biennial budget provides funding to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to expand its market development programs and to continue support for the Farm and Rural Helpline.
The Walz budget includes funding for the following MDA programs and initiatives:
- Increases International Trade and Domestic Market Opportunities
The Budget for One Minnesota provides funding to ensure that Minnesota can continue to develop international trade and domestic markets through education, trade missions, and relationship-building efforts. These market opportunities would build on current investments in trade shows that already provide a $60 return to Minnesota companies on every dollar spent.
- Invests in Emerging Industrial Hemp Industry
The state’s continued investment would ensure that Minnesota farmers and businesses can grow, process, and market industrial hemp. The 2018 Federal Farm Bill permitted the production of hemp across the United States. This funding allows the MDA to follow through on federal licensing and testing requirements, and assist growers as they enter this emerging crop industry.
- Battles Invasive and Noxious Weeds
Palmer amaranth is just one of many examples of destructive weeds that threaten the state. Investment in the MDA’s Noxious Weed Program would support grants that enable local governments to battle noxious weeds, and the funding would provide needed resources to manage or eradicate those weeds, like Palmer amaranth, that have already found their way into Minnesota.
- Prepares for Agricultural Emergencies
In 2015, Minnesota’s poultry industry was devastated by an outbreak of avian influenza. This budget will restore funding to the state’s Agricultural Emergency Account and support work at the MDA and Board of Animal Health to train and prepare for the next disease or invasive species.
- Increases Rural Counseling and Advocate Services
Minnesota currently has only one rural mental health specialist to provide confidential, one-on-one counseling tailored to farmers and their unique concerns. The budget provides funding to add another licensed counselor. It would also enable the MDA to add two Farm Advocates to the current team of 10, who provide help Minnesota farmers facing a crisis caused by either a natural disaster or financial problems.
- Supports the 24-hour Farm and Rural Helpline
The Budget for One Minnesota provides continued funding for the Farm and Rural Helpline, a 24-hour hotline (1-833-600-2670) that connects farmers and other rural residents in distress with a counselor or other resources.
Margaret Hart, MDA Communications