Walz proposes drought relief for farmers

The governor looks at a corn stalk
Farmer Gene Smallidge shows Gov. Tim Walz and Ag Commissioner Thom Petersen an example of his drought-damaged crops.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

DFL Gov. Tim Walz is proposing a $10 million relief package for farmers harmed by this year’s drought conditions.

Half of the money would go toward grants of up to $5,000 to livestock producers and specialty crop growers. The other half would boost the Rural Finance Authority’s Disaster Recovery Loan Program.

Walz announced the proposal Friday at a farm near Hastings. He said the assistance could help some farmers stay on their land.

“It’s not just for Minnesota. We are a major reason that the country has that abundance of food supply, and the world has it,” Walz said.

State Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said recent rains have helped improve farm conditions, but the drought continues. He noted that 60 percent of pastures remain in poor or very poor condition.

Petersen said action on the relief is needed soon.

“The clock is ticking for people that need to buy hay, that need to make decisions,” Petersen said.  

Walz wants to see the drought relief passed next month during a special session that also addresses pandemic front-line worker pay. But House and Senate negotiators have not yet resolved their differences on the pay issue.

Walz urged lawmakers to reach a deal on that and drought relief.

“We’re not going to please everyone, but what we have is we’ve got people who were put in very tough positions during the pandemic,  and we have the capacity to provide some relief to their families.” 

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