Jeanne Poppe: Disaster recovery loans for farmers

Published 10:14 am Saturday, March 23, 2019

As days get longer, the sun gets warmer, and the first robins are showing up in our yards, it might be difficult to remember a month ago when we were struggling with record temperatures, blowing winds, and excessive snowfall. When the worst weather occurred, many farmers throughout our state experienced damage and losses, leaving them struggling to repair a collapsed barn or replace lost livestock. Last week, the Minnesota House and Senate moved quickly to ensure funds would be available to those who need it as soon as possible.

Jeanne Poppe

This was the 4th bill Governor Walz signed into law. The bill gave the Rural Finance Authority Board the ability to issue a Disaster Declaration based on snow, ice, or sleet, and makes the change retroactive to January 1, 2019. The declaration makes available zero-interest loans for farmers who have been impacted.

The funds available to farmers can help with any repairs that need to be made, as well as cropping inputs, feed, and livestock that need to be replaced. Eligible farmers need to have received at least 50 percent of their income from farming for the past three years, and they’ll be able to work with their local lenders. More information on the Disaster Recovery Loan Program can be found on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s website at

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For all that’s said about partisan gridlock and a slow bureaucracy, this was a moment where Minnesotans were struggling, and swift and supportive action was taken by state policy decision makers. Supporting our farmers should never be a partisan issue, and I thank my colleagues for acting so quickly. As we look to the concluding half of the session, many more bills will be coming to the House floor and the dialogue is sure to heat up. Having broad agreement on early bills leads us to be hopeful for a successful conclusion. There is no doubt there will be plenty of opportunities for partisan and engaging conversations in the next two months!

Just as our farmers have been impacted by the extreme weather, so have our schools. With many school districts and families dealing with calendar planning for the rest of the year, the House voted to allow them some flexibility by counting the three day stretch of polar vortex cancellations in January as instructional days (HF 1982). This bill is not identical to the Senate version so a conference committee has been named to try to come to agreement between the two.

A few other high profile bills were passed by the MN House, including a hands-free cell phone bill (HF 50) and HF 400, which addresses the opioid crisis while also holding drug manufacturers accountable. In 2017, more than 400 Minnesotans lost their lives to opioid overdoses, and more than 2,000 visited the emergency room for opioid-involved overdoses. These numbers have been steadily increasing since 2010. While all of this is happening, opioid manufacturers are collecting billions in profits. I voted in support of the legislation and expect to see pharmaceutical companies pay their fair share.