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Serving: MN
Coronavirus

$7.7 million COVID-19 package heads for rural Minnesota

1026M1-1006A
COVID IMPACT ON FARM: Gov. Tim Walz (left) took a tour of southern Minnesota on Oct. 19, making his first stop at Twin Oaks Farm in Northfield. He announced a statewide COVID-19 relief package for farmers and talked with farm owner Mike Peterson about farming challenging during the pandemic.
The financial support comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

A $7.7 million COVID-19 care package that focuses on helping Minnesota farmers and meat processors impacted by the pandemic was announced Oct. 19 by the governor’s office.

Funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the financial support will help farmers who experienced market disruptions and had to purchase equipment and supplies necessary for COVID-19.

Related: Complete coronavirus coverage

The funding includes:

  • $5,750,000 for direct payments to turkey and pork producers to compensate for market disruptions and associated costs due to COVID-19.
  • $1,000,000 for cost share aid to companies or individuals looking to expand or open a meat processing facility. A further investment in meat processing capabilities will help alleviate the back up of animals caused by supply-chain impacts of the pandemic.
  • $500,000 for local food systems, many of which have shifted their businesses to stay afloat, while others faced losses as wholesale markets closed.
  • $250,000 for Farm Business Management scholarships offered by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Funds will pay 75% of the tuition for farmers enrolled to learn financial management. Priority will be given to farmers going through mediation.
  • $200,000 for farmer and food security support to reimburse the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for grants that provided Minnesota-grown food in school summer meal programs. This funding would also support a new cost-share program to help on-farm direct marketers and farmers’ markets purchase equipment and supplies necessary for staff and customer health.

Tour highlights need outstate

Following the morning announcement, Gov. Tim Walz, agriculture department officials and several others took a tour of southern Minnesota, making stops at farms and businesses in Northfield, Austin and the Albert Lea area.

Minnesota agricultural commissioner Thom Petersen accompanied the governor on the trip. They stopped at Twin Oaks Farm, Northfield, owned by Mike and Kay Peterson, as well as Tom Cotter’s Austin farm and Renewable Energy Group in Glenville. Along the way, Petersen said Walz had the opportunity to talk with farmers and others about impacts of COVID.

1026M1-1006DBIOFUEL UPDATE: Gov. Walz visited the Renewable Energy Group, Glenville, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the biofuels and biodiesel industry. Meeting with him were (from left) Scott Hendrick, REG’s executive director of corporate affairs, Rep. Jeanne Poppe and Clay Norrbom, Juhl Clean Energy managing director.

Twin Oaks Farm, which raises corn, soybeans, hogs and ducks, and implements numerous conservation practices including cover crops, earned its Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification designation, Petersen noted. That ag water quality certification program has a goal of enrolling 1 million acres by 2022. It currently has 670,000 acres enrolled, Petersen said.

With Twin Oaks raising hogs for market, that also offered the chance for discussion on the state’s current value added and rapid response grants available to livestock producers, as well as the newly announced funds to reimburse farmers for hogs and turkeys that had to be euthanized due to COVID-19’s impact on the marketing chain. Petersen said more than 50 meat processors grants have been awarded.

1026M1-1006BSOUND CONSERVATION: Twin Oaks Farm, Northfield, is one of dozens of farms enrolled in the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program. Conservation is at the heart of this program to protect soil and water. Talking conservation on the farm during the governor’s recent tour were Kristi Pursell (left), Cannon River Watershed Partnership executive director, Rep. Todd Lippert and Gov. Tim Walz.

“Minnesota was hit super hard when the Smith and JBS plants went down,” Petersen said. “There was no place for hogs and turkeys to go.”

Direct payments to turkey and hog farmers will help reimburse them for expenses involved with depopulation and disposing of animals.

“$4.5 million will go for pork and $1,250,000 will go to turkey producers,” he added.

On Cotter’s farm, visitors learned more about his hemp production and marketing. He is one of several owners of the Superior Cannabis Co., which has two hemp product stores and a website business.

1026M1-1006CBIOFUEL UPDATE: Gov. Walz visited the Renewable Energy Group, Glenville, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the biofuels and biodiesel industry. Meeting with him were (from left) Scott Hendrick, REG’s executive director of corporate affairs, Rep. Jeanne Poppe and Clay Norrbom, Juhl Clean Energy managing director.

The final stop for the group was at Renewable Energy Group, where visitors saw installation of a new turbine that will provide electrical power for the biodiesel plant.

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