Walz releases proposed budget for upcoming FY2022-23
Last week, Governor Tim Walz released his proposed $52.4 billion state budget for the upcoming two-year biennium which begins on July 1. This proposed plan for the FY2022-23 budget would be an 8.5 percent increase in spending over the state’s current FY2020-21 budget. The plan features several revenue raising proposals including the creation of a new fifth income-tax tier for married couples earning more than $1 million (singles more than $500,000), a higher tax rate on capital gains resulting from the sale of assets such as property or stocks, and an increase on the state’s corporate income tax. Together these three proposed tax increases would raise $1.3 billion of the almost $1.7 billion in total overall tax and fee increases in the proposed budget. Additional funding sources for the budget proposal include $1 billion from the state’s budget reserve, $130 million from the U.S. Bank Stadium Reserve Account, $217 million from the current budget surplus, and proposed tax increases on cigarettes and vaping devices.
As regards the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) budget, an additional 3 percent in funding is proposed for programs including Biofuels Infrastructure, the Bioincentive Program, Expansion of the Farm Advocate Program, Farm and Agriculture Mental Health Outreach, Farm Transitions, the Hemp Program, International Trade, the Lab Equipment Fund, Livestock Processing, the Meat Inspection Program, the Agricultural Best Management Practices Loan Program, the Noxious Weed Prevention Program, Dedicated Food License Fees and the Climate Smart Farms Project. The governor also recommends increasing the pesticide gross sales fee rate to generate approximately $2.25 million in the Agriculture Fund beginning in FY2023. This request represents an increase in revenue of approximately 64 percent over the actual receipts collected in FY2020 of $3.5 million. Portions of this proposal are new and others are additions to improve existing programs and create a stable source of funding for the MDA Laboratory and Urban Programs.
Other components of the proposed budget include $50 million for the border-to-border broadband grant program, supporting small businesses with $50 million in a new small business forgivable loan program, as well as investing in small business support for those hardest hit by COVID-19. The proposal also would expand the Working Family Tax Credit for 300,000 eligible households and create a statewide program allowing for twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave.
With the introduction of his budget proposal last week, Gov. Walz made the first major move of the 2021 legislative session, setting the stage for the hearings, debates and negotiations to follow as lawmakers work to arrive at a balanced budget for the biennium when it starts on July 1, 2021. The current two-year state budget is set to expire on June 30, so it is paramount that the governor and Legislature come to an agreement before the end of the current fiscal year or they could be faced with a government shutdown which last occurred in 2011.
AgriGrowth Testifies in Support of Additional Broadband Funding
Earlier this week, former AgriGrowth Board Chair and current director Pat Lunemann testified before the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee in support of additional broadband funding. He shared that AgriGrowth supports legislation to close the digital divide in Minnesota, and to ensure that we meet speed and service requirements of farmers, businesses and communities across the state, as basic fundamental infrastructure. His remarks also indicated that broadband internet connectivity is critical to rural revitalization and competitiveness especially as we respond and rebuild after COVID–19.
He closed his remarks by reminding lawmakers that the move to more robotic systems and the significant movement of data to support modern, sustainable agriculture will require significant upgrades to our infrastructure.
COVID-19: Ongoing Vaccine Rollout Information and Opportunity
Your AgriGrowth team continues to monitor, make input into, and receive feedback on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. In addition to participating in the CDC’s January 21 webinar COVID-19 Vaccination for Food and Agriculture Workers, we continue our weekly virtual discussions with agency officials regarding Minnesota’s vaccine roll-out, particularly regarding the agri-food sector.
Many AgriGrowth members have offered to and asked for resources to help raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination and to address common questions and concerns by their employees. Towards that end, the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Communication Toolkit for Essential Workers is now available and contains an variety of resources and modes of delivery that may be used as is or adapted to your organization. The CDC is encouraging organizations to adapt key messages to the language, tone, and format that will resonate with their employees (including use of your own logo) and simply requests the URL www.cdc.gov also appear in the materials. Minnesota’s vaccine educational materials are in the works, and we will share those as soon as they are available. Meanwhile, it is important that organizations start informing employees about COVID-19 vaccines.
In addition to thanking agri-food organizations for aiding in this communication, CDC leaders specifically expressed their appreciation to the many agri-food organizations who have or are offering support for plant or community vaccination efforts. Because the CDC’s federal guidelines for vaccine distribution allow for state-level flexibility in some areas, they encourage organizations to work with their state department of health. Minnesota’s Departments of Agriculture and of Health also appreciate agri-food offers of assistance and Minnesota’s State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) is now collecting and coordinating those offers. Interested companies or organizations should email the SEOC directly HSEM.PPP@state.mn.us. They will then receive a follow-up form with specific questions on what the organization is able to offer, who is the best contact person, etc.
Finally, as we continue to support our members throughout the pandemic, we are pleased to share an opportunity for interested members to make input into an important research on the impacts of COVID-19 on the agri-food system by researchers at Cornell University. Find more information in the next story.
Agri-Food Industry: Support a New COVID-19 Study Being Done by Cornell University
Help support a study to assess the most urgent needs of the food industry with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic in this 30 min anonymous survey. The research is funded by the USDA Rapid Response to Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) Impacts Across Food and Agricultural Systems program. This program was strongly advocated by the food industry to provide applicable strategies and knowledge that can be implemented rapidly to minimize or eliminate the impacts of COVID-19 on the food and agriculture system. This research will benefit the participating companies whose COVID-19 related experiences and needs will be heard and could be acted upon, for the ultimate benefit of the food industry as a whole. For questions, please contact Dr. Renata Ivanek at firstname.lastname@example.org.