Minnesota farmers are the cornerstone of our state’s economy.
We share in their successes and celebrations, just as we endure their challenges together.
As I engage in my work as governor, I am humbled by the stories I’ve heard from farmers, and I carry them with me. It is no secret that our farmers across the state are enduring significant challenges to their livelihood.
The transition from winter to spring was incredibly difficult this year, from late blizzards to gale-force winds to chronic flooding. When farmers should have been planting, there was snow on the ground or standing water in their fields.
The delayed planting season and infrastructure damage led to fertilizer shortages and even further delays. We are also grappling with some of the lowest commodity prices we’ve seen in decades. The trade environment remains uncertain.
The cost and availability of healthcare services, including mental health services, leave many farmers going without adequate or any insurance. While farming has always involved some uncertainty, these challenges are an existential threat to many families and small farms in our state.
We cannot ask our farmers to weather this alone.
I reflect on the story of Deborah Mills, a dairy farmer who was gracious enough to be my guest at the State of the State earlier this year. Deborah and her family have been dairy farmers for generations, but pursuing this livelihood meant there was a period that Deborah went without health insurance.
Couple that with historically low milk prices and catastrophic weather events, and things started to feel hopeless for the Mills family, where there were more tough days than not.
On one of those tough days, Deborah picked up the phone and called a mental health counselor, and together, they made a plan to move forward.
I am incredibly proud of the work we accomplished this past legislative session to alleviate some of the struggles that I’ve been hearing from Minnesota farmers.
First, I’d like to recognize the leadership of agriculture committee chairs Sen. Torrey Westrom and Rep. Jeanne Poppe. Their clear-eyed focus on supporting Minnesota farmers is commendable and the reason we are moving forward on these critical issues.
I’m proud that our budget secured $8 million for the Dairy Assistance, Investment and Relief Initiative (DAIRI) to make sure our dairy farmers can continue doing the work they love and providing for our state.
We also secured $468,000 to expand on collaborative rural mental health efforts, including one-on-one farmer counseling and a 24-hour hotline over four years, and we will hire two additional farm advocates to provide one-on-one assistance for Minnesota farmers facing a crisis caused by either a natural disaster or financial problems.
While many uncertainties remain for our farmers and our state, we must find solutions that lift all of us up from these challenges.
I look forward to continuing to work together to make sure that Minnesota’s farmers can keep feeding the world.
Thank you for the chance to hear your stories and serve as your governor.