NELSON: Strengthening Minnesota’s Ag Economy

Senator Carla Nelson
3 min readFeb 25, 2024

As we embark on the 2024 legislative session, it is crucial to shine a spotlight on the agricultural issues that will shape the future of our great state. Agriculture has long been the backbone of Minnesota’s economy. The industry generates more than $112 billion in annual economic impact and supports more than 431,000 jobs. But we are also looking at a few worrisome trends, like the fact that Minnesota continues to lose farmers year after year.

As always, one of my ag priorities will be to address these key challenges while fostering innovation and sustainability. I am proud to say this is a priority shared by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Minnesota offers several programs to help beginning farmers get off the ground. Prior to the problematic 2023 expansion which is currently being adjudicated, I led the successful effort to expand Minnesota’s Beginning Farmer Tax Credit. This program is designed to empower the next generation of farmers by providing tax credits to landowners who rent or sell farmland or farm assets to beginning farmers. It lowers the barrier to entry and makes it much more feasible for new farmers to acquire the land or equipment they need to launch their operations.

Minnesota also offers a Down Payment Assistance Grant Program that takes a hands-on approach and supports farmers purchasing their first farm. These grants, up to $15,000, help qualified first-time farmers acquire farmland or other essential agricultural assets like barns or greenhouses.

In addition, supporting new or emerging farmers is wonderful and important, we must also look at ways to strengthen Minnesota’s rich history of family farming.

For example, Minnesota residents should not be forced to sell their farm in order to pay the estate taxes on inherited property. As a member of the tax committee, I remain committed to empower Minnesota families and drive economic growth through significant, broad tax relief.

Minnesota has long been a global leader in agriculture innovation and research, and these efforts are not slowing down any time soon. The University of Minnesota is investing in a visionary new research complex at its Austin campus focused on advancing the field of agriculture. This public-private partnership is called Future of Advanced Agricultural Research in Minnesota (FAARM), and it will feature state-of-the-art facilities and hundreds of acres dedicated to studying every aspect of livestock, crops, and the relationship of human, animal, and environmental health. It is an incredibly exciting project — discoveries made by the researchers at FAARM have the potential to produce groundbreaking advancements in agriculture that shape the future prosperity of our state’s ag communities.

Soil health is another critical issue in our effort to support emerging farmers and strengthen our agriculture industry. Adopting smart soil management practices sometimes requires a serious investment in specialized equipment. That is why Minnesota offers a Soil Health Financial Assistance Grant Program, which helps offset these costs by providing cost-sharing support to farmers who want to transition to these new soil health tools and techniques. Another round of grants is anticipated this summer. The program provides access to critical technology innovations that will pave the way for soil health and farm success for years to come.

Whether it is research or financial assistance, Minnesota offers a wide range of programs and initiatives to strengthen our current farmers and to prime the next generation of farmers for success. We are making it easier to become a farmer, supporting access and innovation, and incentivizing the adoption of smart new soil practices. All to help beginning farmers put down roots and grow their operations.

These efforts could not come at a more important time. Minnesota’s renowned ag industry is facing extreme challenges. We must secure family farms, rural economies, and our position as an international ag leader. Enacting smart policies, embracing innovations and empowering Minnesota farmers will position us for future success.