Funds Available to Improve Soil Health

Applications for soil health equipment grants due September 15

Applications are now open for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Soil Health Financial Assistance Grants.

These grants are available to individual producers, producer groups, and local governments to purchase or retrofit soil health equipment. Grant awards will provide up to 50 percent cost-share, with a minimum award of $500 and a maximum award of $50,000. The 2023 Legislature appropriated $2.375 million for this round of grants.

“Good soil health is important to water quality and our other natural resources in Minnesota,” said MDA Commissioner Thom Petersen. “It’s important to recognize the financial hurdles farmers face when trying to implement soil health practices because of specialized, expensive equipment and machinery. The Soil Health Financial Assistance Grants will help offset equipment costs, helping to expand the number of Minnesota farmers and acres engaged in soil health activities.”

Examples of eligible new or used equipment include, but are not limited to, no-till drills, air seeders, retrofit projects to allow no-till planting, and more. Parts and materials used to retrofit existing equipment are also eligible.

The Request for Proposals and application link can be found at Applications are due September 15, 2023. Awards will be announced by January 1, 2024.

This is the first full round of Soil Health Financial Assistance Grants. A pilot program earlier this year awarded $475,000 to 16 individuals and organizations across 15 counties. No-till drills and air seeders were among the most requested pieces of equipment. The pilot program received more than 230 applications for more than $6.5 million—over 13 times the funding available.

MCIA Hosts 2023 AOSCA Annual Meeting

Speaking at the 2023 AOSCA Annual Meeting in Bloomington, Minnesota: Sarah Wilbanks, PhD, CEO, Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies; Tom Slunecka, CEO, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council; Thom Petersen, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Photos: MCIA.

By Fawad Shah, MCIA President/CEO

Delegates from the US, Canada, and New Zealand gathered at the Hyatt Regency in Bloomington, Minnesota  to attend the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) 2023 Annual Meeting, held June 4–7. After waiting for thirty-plus years, the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association (MCIA) had the privilege and honor to host this year’s event.

The vested members of AOSCA meet annually to review organization activities and identify and take on new initiatives, as well as update and revise seed certification standards. Members participate in various committee meetings, hear reports from affiliate organizations, and enjoy educational presentations.

The official meeting kicked off with a welcome from Commissioner Thom Petersen, Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). He highlighted the economic impact of agriculture, stating that Minnesota has 26 million acres of farmland, 51 percent of its total land area, with 68,000 farms. Among states, Minnesota ranks fifth both in total agricultural production ($16.7 billion) and crop production ($8.85 billion), and it exports nearly $9 billion in sales.

In addition, Commissioner Petersen noted Minnesota is home to several large ag-based businesses and agricultural cooperatives. These entities offer not only economic benefits to the state but also provide reliable employment opportunities. He also commented on the partnership between MDA and MCIA and its significance in sustaining the integrity of the state’s seed industry.

At the evening banquet, Tom Slunecka, Chief Executive Officer of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotional Council (MSRPC), spoke to the group. Minnesota ranks third in national soybean production and is a substantial player in soybean exports to China and other nations. He highlighted some of their current projects. Most notably, is their financial support for soybean research at the University of Minnesota. Which Includes the development of specialty high oleic and low linolenic soybean varieties.

Tom noted the MSRPC effort to spearhead a remarkable public-private partnership to establish the Ag Innovation Campus near Crookston. The campus will serve as a hub for agricultural innovations and development of novel products, fostering value-added agriculture.

He also mentioned MCIA’s pivotal role in establishing the US Identity Preserved Program through Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance. MCIA staff members inspect and audit participating grain handling facilities in Minnesota and neighboring states. Upon meeting the program’s rigorous requirements, these companies can use the US IP mark when exporting Identity Preserved grain to international customers and selling in domestic markets.

Educational sessions were also part of the meeting agenda. Attendees heard from Kim Bremmer of Ag Inspirations. Her presentation encouraged those present to be leaders and advocates for agriculture in their communities and states. Terry Hollifield of the Georgia Crop Improvement Association addressed the topic of “Building a Successful Certification Agency.”Terry noted the importance of active leadership, building relationships with your clients and others important to your organization, and seeking out new opportunities.

Meeting delegates also had some time to explore around the Twin Cities. They enjoyed various activities, including a Twins game, golf, a boat ride on the Mississippi River, a visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and shopping at the Mall of America.

A great venue, beautiful weather, and delicious food, along with an interesting and engaging agenda, made this year’s meeting a huge success. MCIA staff members deserve to feel proud of all the hard work they contributed before and during the meeting toward the exceptional execution of this event.