From the Executive Director: Timely Legislation Passed to Aid Farmers During Crisis
My column this week features important information on recent COVID-19 state and federal legislation, including some below that was taken from the Minnesota Farmers Union’s April 14th e-newsletter. If you are seeking timely information on state and federal local food- and farm-related policy, I encourage you to sign up for the Farmers Union newsletter here.
The Minnesota State Legislature yesterday approved a bill (HF4556/SF4462) that provides an extension to farmer-lender mediations from 90 days (after which a lender can enforce a debt) to 150 days for all farm loan mediation requests filed before July 31, 2020. This enables farmers, mediators and lenders to have face-to-face meetings that are essential to debt resolution, but are now restricted with the stay-at-home order. Zoom or other online applications aren’t a substitute for face-to-face mediation as they are less reliable in rural areas with low broadband access.
This same bill (which is the fourth COVID-19 emergency measure passed by the legislature) includes an additional $1.25 million in grants for Second Harvest Heartland to purchase and distribute milk and other protein products to food banks across the state.
At last week’s Western SFA Chapter Annual Meeting, held online, members discussed the precarious and disrupted meat markets and plant closures due to COVID-19. MN Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen and MDA has announced some new resources for livestock producers and processors and details on that are available here.
The Minnesota Department of Education is looking for farmers who can provide grab-and-go foods at wholesale for the boxed lunches they are offering to students: meat sticks, cheese sticks, apples, carrots, salad greens, etc. If you can contribute to this effort, contact the Minnesota Cooks team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Zimmerli’s most recent column covers a host of local foods developments related to COVID-19. Check it out here.
And don’t forget FarmAid’s online resource directory.
Please take part in the Organic Farmer Survey the Dept. of Ag mailed to the state’s organic operations. Certified organic farmers who do not receive a survey in the mail can contact MDA Organic Agriculture Specialist Cassie Dahl at 651.201.6134 to request a copy.
And finally, Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG) has released a A Farmers’ Guide to COVID-19 Relief. Access it here.