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After barns collapse, Minnesota farmers could see disaster loan option

ST. PAUL — Minnesota farmers hit by catastrophic winter weather could access zero-interest disaster loans through the state.

The Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives both unanimously approved a bill Thursday, March 14, that would let the Rural Finance Authority offer loans through the Disaster Recovery Loan Program to farmers who've faced damages from snow and ice.

Minnesota farmers have endured years of low commodity and milk prices and extreme winter weather has worsened problems for some as barns and other structures have collapsed under the weight of snow and ice.

"It's truly is a disaster what's happened and that on top of the declining farm economy has been adding more pain to an already painful situation," Sen. Kent Eken, DFL Twin Valley, said.

More than 70 barns have collapsed so far this year, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Sen. Michael Goggin, R-Red Wing, carried the bill and said it was key to giving farmers another tool as they navigate tough financial times. The loans would extend back to damage caused since Jan. 1.

"We've had a tremendous amount of snowfall in the month of February and to make matters worse, the economy for the ag folks is not very good right now," Goggin said. “It's all over the state and we need to make sure that our farmers have access to relief loans.”

The bill moves now to Gov. Tim Walz's desk for his signature.

Senate and House approval Thursday came as the northwestern part of the state experienced another blizzard.