Legislation to support Forever Green clean-water crops advances

by Peter LaFontaine

The Forever Green Initiative is ready to scale up so more farmers can grow clean-water crops year-round, making funding crucial this cycle. (Photo: Tom Cotter of award-winning Cotter Farms by Dodd Demas)

FMR's #1 priority this legislative session is full funding for Forever Green, perhaps our state's most important sustainable agriculture program.

The University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative is a plant research and development program for the next generation of economically viable winter annual crops (or cover crops) and perennial crops like Kernza. These plants reduce runoff pollution and habitat loss while still turning a profit for growers.

Forever Green is at an inflection point. Numerous crops are ready to start rapidly scaling up, which means it's vital to keep funding the research, market development and partnership activities that hold so much promise. FMR plays a key role via our engagement in the Forever Green Partnership, a multisector collaborative that is providing the horsepower to make that scale-up possible.

Our ask: $10 million for Forever Green 

As lawmakers work through the near-record number of bills introduced, Forever Green legislation is making steady progress.

We helped pull together a slate of testifiers including leaders from the University of Minnesota, Puris Foods, and a farmer who plants (among other things) Kernza in west-central Minnesota. Many of the legislators are familiar with Forever Green and asked good questions about its impacts on rural community development, farm operations and of course the environmental benefits that come with Forever Green cropping systems.

Both committees also received a shared letter of support drafted by FMR and signed by dozens of agriculture, environmental and food-systems groups urging full funding for this important initiative.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of Representative Ginny Klevorn and Senator Scott Dibble, who are guiding this vital legislation on behalf of our coalition. Thanks also go to Chair Westrom and Chair Sundin for granting the two hearings, and to the bipartisan legislators in both committees for their interest and support.

Looking ahead

As the session progresses, full funding of $10 million for Forever Green will likely need to come from more than a single funding source. Our hope is that legislators will use a combination of both the Clean Water Fund and the state general fund.

With that in mind, the legislation in both chambers could move to a pair of different committees in each chamber (each governing a different funding source) going forward:

We're optimistic that Forever Green will secure at least $4.3 million from the Clean Water Fund in both chambers, which is the current funding level from that fund. However, any additional funding from that source or from the general fund will largely come down to what environmental investments lawmakers choose to prioritize as the session progresses.

That means we'll be looking to our River Guardians to ask their legislators to support full funding during the negotiations process beginning now and running through the end of May 2021. Make sure to sign up to receive action alerts so you know when to act (see below).

You can help

Sign up to become a River Guardian and we'll send periodic email alerts that help you reach lawmakers on important river issues like this. River Guardians are also invited to special events, including happy hours, to learn more about important legislative and metro river corridor issues.

Read more legislative updates.