The Rural Finance Authority (RFA) board issued a disaster declaration earlier this week for the State of Minnesota, which now makes low interest loans available for Minnesota farmers whose operations suffered barn collapses or other damage due to the record winter snowfall.

Governor Tim Walz signed a bill allowing the RFA to declare a disaster. The funds are available to farmers for expenses not covered by insurance.

“Governor Walz and the RFA board members acted quickly to make these disaster recovery funds available,” said Thom Petersen, Minnesota agriculture commissioner. “This zero interest loan program is especially important for farmers who suffered damage from the heavy snowfall and were not insured or were underinsured.”

The disaster recovery loan program can be used to help clean up, repair or replace farm structures and septic and water systems, as well as replace cropping inputs, feed and livestock. The program offers affordable financing to repair existing agricultural buildings to pre-disaster conditions.

Eligible farmers must have received at least 50 percent of their annual gross income from farming for the past three years and will work through their bank to secure the RFA loans.

After a rough winter that caused damage to dozens of agricultural buildings, Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) is pleased that the state has offered some help.

“Weather damage has been adding insult to injury for farmers facing five years of negative income,” said Gary Wertish, MFU president. “We appreciate the swift bipartisan action by the legislature and Gov. Walz to provide some relief.”

More than 100 barns and sheds have collapsed across the state, according to reports from Minnesota Milk and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. It has led to many farmers selling or relocating their cattle, often at short notice.

The Minnesota House and Senate initially approved the legislation on making disaster recovery loans available.

“Farmers already are facing tough times, and these building collapses are devastating, particularly causing significant hardships in the dairy industry where farmers have had to move their herds off their property to be milked at other operations or even be liquidated,” said District 16A Rep. Chris Swedzinski of Ghent. “This is a difficult situation, and, while we are still waiting to hear the full extent of the damage, I am proud the House placed urgency on this bill and passed it with overwhelming support.”

More information on the program can be found on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Web site at www.mda.state.mn.us.