If you’ve followed our work for a while, you’ve probably heard about our Local Emergency Assistance Farmer Fund, also known as LEAFF. The program began in 2020 as a way to help small-scale emerging farmers survive the loss of their typical markets due to the pandemic. Since then the program has evolved to be a market access onramp that is accessible and responsive to the unique needs of emerging farmers in Minnesota.
In 2022 we used our blog to keep you posted on the saga of how funding for LEAFF made its way through the Minnesota legislature. The journey ended in a big win as we ended up receiving $250,000 for the program through the passage of the Agriculture Omnibus Bill, HF 3420. This year, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s agriculture budget recommendations included $100,000 in ongoing funding for LEAFF. In order to right-size the ask for the stability of the program and to expand LEAFF with pilot programs in other parts of the state, we embarked on a journey to find a bill sponsor. Right away we connected with Representative Samantha Sencer-Mura, the first Asian-American woman to represent Minneapolis, a freshman member of the House of Representatives, and a member of the House Agriculture Committee. With values in alignment with ours, we asked Representative Sencer-Mura if she would be the Chief Author of a bill for LEAFF, she agreed and after a brief tango with the revisor’s office, the LEAFF bill HF 1744 was born. The companion bill (authored by Senator Heather Gustafson) is SF 1727.
So what’s next? The LEAFF bill is on the agenda for the House Agriculture Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 1st from 6:00 – 7:30 pm. Here is what we are asking for.
- $400,000 in fiscal year 2024 and $400,000 in fiscal year 2025 to purchase produce from emerging farmers for donation to hunger relief organizations in Minnesota.
- The ability to use up to 25% of funds annually for providing technical assistance and training for participating farmers, logistical support, and development and oversight of pilot programs.
- $100,000 in fiscal year 2024 to purchase produce for LEAFF pilot programs in greater Minnesota before June 30, 2026.
Funding this bill won’t just benefit the farmers who are getting connected with a proven onramp to market access, but it has the added benefit of getting more food grown by BIPOC farmers into the emergency food supply chain through our hunger relief partners including The Food Group, New Millennium Academy, and Loaves and Fishes. Learn more about the program’s impact by viewing this LEAFF fact sheet.
If you would like to voice your support for HF 1744, you can submit a letter of support to the House Ag Committee Administrator, Amanda Rudolph ([email protected]) no later than noon on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. Check out this sample letter of support to get you started if you’re not sure what to say.
You can also reach out to your own representatives to tell them that this bill is something you care about! To find out who your elected officials are, simply enter your home address into Who Represents Me. Call or email your legislator and urge them to support HF 1744/SF 1727. Doing outreach like this is especially important if your elected officials are on the House or Senate Ag Committees (see the list of those members here and here) or if your legislators are Republican. We don’t want the DFL to be the only party hearing about the work we’re doing to build a stronger, more resilient, and equitable food system! LEAFF is a program that embodies what One Minnesota is all about, please join us in making sure our bill makes it in its entirety into the budget this legislative session!
If you have questions about the bill or would like to talk about getting involved with LEAFF, contact our Communication Director, Nikki Warner at [email protected].