An Update on LEAFF Legislation

This was an exciting week in the Minnesota legislature, as both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees ran through Governor Tim Walz’s Proposed Supplemental Ag Budget Bill, HF4366 in the House and SF4019 in the Senate. The bills include investments in soil health, farmers markets, farm business management grants, and farm and rural mental health among other things, all of which are critical investments to Minnesota’s agricultural sector. Support for emerging farmers and hunger relief is also included in the proposed supplemental budgets, including $1.5 Million dollars allocated (see line 23.27) to the Local Emergency Assistance Farmer Fund (LEAFF) which we operate out of our food hub during the growing season.

Our Farm Program Director, David Van Eeckhout testified in support of HF 4366 in Wednesday’s virtual House Ag Committee hearing, stating that “The benefits of this innovative program have continued to surpass our initial goals. The vast majority of participating farmers commented that LEAFF allowed them to reduce or even eliminate the amount of food wasted produce on their farms, and all participating farmers reported learning new skills from the program, including how to communicate with wholesale buyers, packaging requirements, and food safety. The program has also offered a low-barrier entry point for farmers into our food hub’s other wholesale market opportunities. The farmers who participated in LEAFF in 2020 sold an additional $350,000 in produce into other wholesale markets during the 2021 season, creating more financial stability for farm businesses.”

LEAFF has a proven track record of helping emerging farmers learn new skills and expand their wholesale channels beyond LEAFF. It is a program that is accessible, useful, and responsive to the unique needs of emerging farmers. We hope that the proposed funding remains intact as both committees move forward in approving the Governor’s proposed supplemental budget. Stay tuned for more updates as the legislative session progresses!

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The Local Emergency Assistance Farmer Fund, LEAFF, began in 2020 as a multi-organizational collaboration to help small-scale emerging farmers survive the loss of their typical markets due to the pandemic. LEAFF partner organizations include The Good Acre, Lakewinds Food Co-op, Latino Economic Development Center, Hmong American Partnership, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Mill City Farmers Market Charitable Fund, and The Food Group. Funds from this program are used to purchase produce at fair prices from emerging farmers, 100% of it is then donated to hunger relief partners serving the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. LEAFF brings culturally-relevant produce to communities in need and trains under-resourced farmers in growing for wholesale by providing a wholesale outlet with minimal barriers. Click here to learn more.

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