Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Friday, Sept. 24, announced a $10 million drought relief package to support Minnesota farmers and livestock producers impacted by severe drought conditions during the 2021 growing season.
The drought relief proposal includes $5 million in rapid response grants to provide drought relief for livestock producers and specialty crop producers. Examples of eligible costs include water handling equipment such as water tanks, pipeline, and water wagons, water hauling, wells and irrigation equipment.
“Historic drought conditions have created extreme stress and financial hardship for our farmers and livestock producers during an already difficult time for the agricultural industry,” said Walz, who said the relief is evidence that the state is standing by its farmers. "This funding will provide much-needed relief to Minnesota’s agricultural community and help ensure our farmers can keep feeding Minnesota and the world.”
The funding proposal also includes $5 million for the Rural Finance Authority’s Disaster Recovery Loan Program. The program makes zero-interest loans available immediately for Minnesota farmers whose operations are suffering from lack of rain. The Disaster Recovery Loan Program can be used to help cover lost revenue or expenses not covered by insurance.
Minnesota farmers went through extreme drought conditions this summer, with the U.S. Drought Monitor released on Aug. 12 putting a portion of Minnesota in exceptional drought (the worst category on the map), for the first time the monitor began in 1994. Meteorologists referred to 2021 as the worst drought since 1988. Following rain in August and September, the Sept. 23 report was the first in more than a month not to have the Minnesota in exceptional drought.
“Minnesota’s farmers are essential to our economy and to our communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “As we’ve traveled the state and heard directly from farmers, small and large, we know how critical relief is for families across Minnesota. This proposal provides meaningful support for our farmers and producers who have been hit hard by this year’s severe drought.”
The severe conditions prompted a visit late this summer from United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to tour Minnesota operations struggling with crops. During that visit, Vilsack said the federal government's programs to support farmers experiencing drought were insufficient to meet the moment.
“Minnesota’s livestock and specialty crop farmers will have an opportunity to recoup some of their losses,” said Thom Petersen, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, about the relief package. “I encourage farmers and producers to apply for these grants and loans while they’re available.”
Last month, Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap stressed the urgency to help the state's farmers, saying "time matters in a drought" more than ever as producers are faced with tough decisions on feeding animals and future planning.
"We're grateful to see the governor take action toward providing swift, targeted relief to farmers who've been devastated by this historic drought,” said Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union. “Many livestock and specialty crop producers are struggling to plan for winter and upcoming season. Any relief we can get out now will help keep families on the farm."
More details on the drought relief package will be announced soon, according to a press release from the Governor's office.