Home Jersey sale As Deadline Approaches, Minnesota Legislature Approves Bill to Address 2021 Drought and Fund Broadband Infrastructure

As Deadline Approaches, Minnesota Legislature Approves Bill to Address 2021 Drought and Fund Broadband Infrastructure

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As the Minnesota Legislature struggled Sunday to break a deadlock over billions in proposed spending and tax cuts before the 11:59 p.m. deadline to adjourn the 2022 session, lawmakers managed to resolve two thorny disagreements.

The DFL-led House and the Republican-led Senate passed a bill which directs $18.4 million toward drought relief and disaster relief, primarily for livestock and specialty crop producers affected by the 2021 dry spell. The bill also includes $110 million dollars to help build high-speed Internet infrastructure. Governor Tim Walz is expected to sign the measure.

“This bill represents the largest investment in rural broadband in state history,” Senator Torrey Westrom, an Elbow Lake Republican who chairs finance and policy, told the Senate on Sunday night. Agriculture and Rural Development of the Senate.

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An agreement on the fight against drought

A drought relief deal had eluded lawmakers since at least fall 2021. After a year that left much of the state in severe or extreme drought, there was consensus among lawmakers and Walz that Minnesota should step in to help those most affected.

This included ranchers who were having trouble growing food or higher prices to buy it. The drought has also hit specialty crop farmers who grow produce like produce for farmers’ markets. Neither can rely on traditional crop insurance in the same way as farmers who grow crops like corn and soybeans.

Lawmakers at the time had a broad agreement to spend about $10 million, and many hoped it would pass in a special legislative session before they meet in late January. But after Senate Republicans have threatened to oust Health Commissioner Jan MalcolmWalz decided not to convene this extraordinary session.

When the Legislative Assembly convened, key lawmakers said they were optimistic drought relief could pass quickly. And they said quick action was urgently needed to help desperate farmers.

But the invoice is blocked. House Democrats tied the $10 million in drought relief to farmers to a $13 million plan to replant drought-affected forests, plant shade trees and fund water conservation projects.

Senate Republicans were skeptical of the new provisions, and they in turn added separate funding — unpopular with Democrats — to help deer ranchers affected by regulations aimed at limiting the spread of chronic wasting disease. The Senate GOP withdrew the money for the deer farms, but the DFL insisted on their money for other drought provisions requested by the Department of Natural Resources.

The final agreement includes $8.1 million for livestock and specialty crop assistance, $2.5 million for drought relief loans and $5.3 million for seedlings killed by Drought. Money for shade trees and water efficiency projects is not part of the bill. A small amount of money was included for animal disease testing equipment as the state deals with a chronic wasting disease, the bird flu outbreak and more.

The legislative agreement will help meet the “expenses farmers have had to pay for buying extra forage, bringing it from further afield, or finding ways to feed their livestock or manage the specialty crops they have grown and the loss they suffered,” Westrom mentioned.

Some on Capitol Hill have complained about the final deal. State Rep. Nathan Nelson, R-Hinckley, told the House on Saturday night that the deal was “too little too late for many.” And he pointed out the “late” part. Negotiations have lasted so long that farmers like him no longer face drought conditions.

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“Ironically, it’s too wet for me to plant,” Nelson said. “It’s May 21, I haven’t planted a seed yet.”

But in a statement, Rep. Mike Sundin, an Esko Democrat who chairs the House Finance and Farm Policy Committee and helped broker the drought deal, said the bill was a good one. compromise. “We’ve heard from farmers across our state who are facing challenges, and they’re counting on us to come together to improve the prospects for agriculture in Minnesota in the future,” Sundin said.

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State Rep. Mike Sundin, an Esko Democrat who chairs the House Finance and Farm Policy Committee and helped broker the drought deal, said the bill was a good compromise.

Historical broadband cash flow

The stalemate over broadband infrastructure hasn’t lasted quite as long, but it has been stormy at times.

Minnesota is expecting a windfall of federal broadband money, but little money has yet materialized. The 2021 Legislature approved $70 million for the state’s border-to-border program that subsidizes developers to build in rural areas, where it would otherwise be too expensive.

That money came from a $180 million “capital projects” fund as part of Minnesota’s share of the U.S. federal bailout, and it was so slow to be finalized by the federal government that the State missed a construction season.

For this reason, and others, the Walz administration has requested $170 million in state, not federal, spending this year for broadband infrastructure. The Senate GOP has proposed using $110 million remaining in the ARP’s capital projects fund for broadband infrastructure. There was a debate on how to use this 110 million dollars, because it can also be used for other purposes, such as the purchase of devices and equipment to facilitate access to the Internet or certain construction projects such as the modernization of a library or a community health centre.

The DFL House, much to the chagrin of the Walz administration and some rural Democratsofficially offered only $25 million in cash from the general fund and did not release a plan for the capital projects fund.

Ultimately, lawmakers agreed to spend $50 million in public funds over the next three years on broadband subsidies and approved $60.7 million from the capital projects fund to build or support broadband infrastructure. Walz will decide how to use the remaining money from ARP capital projects within federal guidelines.

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Lawmakers touted the deal as including $210 million in broadband spending. That’s $100 million already dedicated to Minnesota for broadband in the federal infrastructure and jobs law. But it ensures that the money will be used for infrastructure expansion. The feds have describes several potential uses for silver, including installing Wi-Fi in multi-unit residential buildings and adopting “digital equity” programs. Unlike the ARP’s capital project fund, however, there has been little debate over the federal infrastructure bill’s broadband money on Capitol Hill in Minnesota this year.

More than 240,000 homes currently do not have access to a connection that meets state standards. Walz officials estimate meeting the state’s 2026 goal for adequate broadband will cost $1.3 billion, with most of that money coming from the state.

State Representative Rob Ecklund

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State Representative Rob Ecklund

In a statement, Rep. Rob Ecklund, a Democrat from International Falls who helped negotiate broadband money, said the bill “will help expand broadband access to more homes, d ‘schools and businesses across the state’.