LEAFF in the Ag Omnibus – Final Stretch!
When we last checked in about LEAFF funding in the Governor’s Supplemental Agriculture Budget, there was an allocation of $1.5M to fund the program for this and the next biennium. Since then, that $1.5M has been cut to $1M in the House version of the bill, HF 4366. The House version very closely mirrors the Governor’s proposal and clocks in at about $60M total. The Senate version of the bill, SF 4019, on the other hand, does not include funding for LEAFF and totals just over $5M.
A conference committee was assembled last week in order to reach a compromise between the two bills. In the House version of the bill, LEAFF funding is included in $3M for grants to Second Harvest Heartland for hunger relief, so we collaborated with the Public Affairs team at Second Harvest, on a letter to conferees.
While we’re closely watching what’s happening in the legislature, we are simultaneously preparing for the start of the growing season. We’re also gearing up to start the LEAFF program, with or without a decision from the legislature, meaning a lot of scenario planning on our part. We opened up applications for the LEAFF program on May 4th. Along with the application, we asked applicants to share with us their thoughts on why LEAFF should be funded. We compiled their responses into over a dozen letters that we shared with conferees this week.
The final day of the legislative session is Monday, May 23rd and the Governor has been clear that as this is not a budget year, extending the session is off the table. As it sits now, the next conference committee meeting is yet to be scheduled. And perhaps more importantly, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) and House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) have yet to provide the Ag Conference Committee with budget targets. These targets are necessary in order for conferees to begin the negotiation process.
The Land Stewardship Project has made it easy for you to take action in asking leadership to set high budget targets. If you think that it would be wise to use a small fraction of our historical $9 Billion dollar state surplus on ag, consider submitting your comments here. You can also contact the conferees for these two versions of the bill to voice your support for LEAFF, or any other initiatives that benefit agriculture in our state. Bonus points if you are a constituent of a conferee. To find out who represents you, visit this link.