Lawmakers on Tuesday heard details of Gov. Tim Walz’s $10 million drought-relief plan for farmers, readying a package to pass when the Legislature next meets.

For much of summer, Minnesota experienced drought conditions. In mid-August, nearly 90% of Minnesota was under severe drought conditions. Northern Minnesota was most affected, said Agriculture Commissioner Thom Peterson.

Half of Walz’s $10 million plan would provide public funding for grants to livestock producers and specialty crop growers. The remainder would be used for zero-interest loans.

Drought relief has emerged as top priority for lawmakers who are currently deadlocked in negotiations with Walz over a special legislative session that would address a growing list of issues..

The Legislature was initially due to convene last month to approve the distribution of $250 million pandemic bonus pay to essential workers, but partisan differences remain.

Walz says he won’t call lawmakers back without prior agreement from Senate Republicans that they would not hold a confirmation vote to oust his health commissioner, Jan Malcolm.

State Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, said he would ask that any financial aid to farmers should be based on need, saying farmers should demonstrate actual financial losses to qualify.

Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, said farmers have had to cull herds because they were unable to feed their livestock.

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Minnesota Reformer.

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