Today, the Minnesota Senate passed a significant Agriculture, Broadband, and Housing bill to help Minnesota farmers and families. The legislation expands broadband funding, urgent addresses concerns in our agriculture sector, and improves access to affordable housing.
Supporting Minnesota Agriculture
Senate Republicans have consistently advocated for resources to help farmers and everyone who is a part of Minnesota agriculture economy. Republicans continue their commitment in this year’s Agriculture package.
“Agriculture is the lifeblood of our state,” Senator Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) said. “This bill builds on last year’s terrific farmers-focused agriculture budget by tackling two timely, serious issues: livestock processing challenges, and the current outbreak of avian flu and other animal diseases.”
The legislation works to help our farmers combat the ongoing Avian influenza outbreak by appropriating $500,000 to the emergency agricultural account to be used for avian influenza testing supplies. Additionally, included is $350,000 for the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Minnesota for equipment to test for chronic wasting disease (CWD), African swine fever, avian influenza, and other animal diseases.
The package includes funding to help reimburse and offset lost revenue for Minnesota deer farmers who were impacted by the banning of deer movement by the Department of Natural Resources. The movement ban has had a devastating impact on Minnesota deer farmers.
Finally, the Agriculture section of the bill builds on past programs successfully championed by Senate Republicans to support livestock processing. This includes investments in meat cutting and butchery training programs; money to start, modernize or expand meat, poultry, dairy, and egg processing facilities; and grants for training high school students and employees of small processors.
Investing in Connecting Minnesotans with Broadband
The Senate bill invests heavily in improving Minnesota broadband connectivity. The legislation directs a historic level of up to $210 million of federal money to improve Minnesota broadband which is on top of the $70 million the legislature passed last session. Westrom’s bill works to ensure Minnesota is not left behind in receiving federal broadband dollars.
“Fast, dependable internet access is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity on par with electricity or clean water,” Newman added. “Minnesota has strong broadband coverage but there are still gaps. This bill helps us reach more of those unserved and underserved areas.”
Investments in the Border-to-Border broadband grant program have become important to connect all Minnesotans to the modern economy. Roughly 240,000 Minnesota households are without reliable internet access including 25% of rural Minnesota households.
Promoting Pathways to Home Ownership
The bill includes a comprehensive housing plan to ensure Minnesotans have stable housing and promotes and encourages pathways to homeownership.
“When you think about the American Dream, you think about owning your own home,” Newman said. “This bill puts that dream within reach for more Minnesotans by eliminating unnecessary regulations that drive up costs and investing in homeownership.”
The bill includes $35 million for the Homeownership Investment Grants Program that provides funding to the Minnesota-based Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to increase affordable homeownership in our state; $10 million for the Workforce Homeownership Program, which is designed to increase the supply of workforce and affordable, owner-occupied housing; $10 million to create a revolving loan fund for the purchase of manufactured housing parks to be converted into cooperative ownership; $5 million for the 9,000 Equities Fund at Build Wealth Minnesota to provide affordable first mortgages or equivalent financing opportunities to struggling households to access mortgages in underserved communities of color; and $5 million for grants to install sprinkler systems in non-profit high rise apartment buildings.
Notable policy items in the bill include: preventing the governor from issuing any executive order that prohibits or delays evictions for more than 30 days unless an extension to the order is approved by a majority vote of each house of the legislature; prohibiting local governments from enacting rent control policies on private residential properties, retroactive to November 1, 2021; and requiring the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to complete a report on the impacts of rent control on affordable housing. Until the report, which is due August 1, 2023, is delivered to the legislature, MHFA must not use any funds from any source on multifamily housing projects in cities that have adopted a rent control ordinance.
The bill now awaits action by the House of Representatives.