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North Dakota and South Dakota legislatures make ag funding a priority

With more money for research facilities, roads, and better internet service, lawmakers in North Dakota and South Dakota have put significant funding into projects that benefit agriculture during their 2021 sessions. The South Dakota Legislature adjourned in March. The North Dakota Legislature was still in session last week. Both states were poised to make large investments in infrastructure, ag programs and capital projects related to agriculture.

The South Dakota Legislature passed a historic $5.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year during the 2021 session with major one-time funding for many projects that will benefit agriculture. The massive amount of one-time spending was thanks to federal COVID-19 relief money and previous savings.

Rep. Richard Vasgaard, a farmer in the Centerville area, said they were originally going to allocate those dollars from the surplus in the state budget but the measure was amended. “The state is going to provide us $3 million and the Department of Transportations thought they could come up with the other $3 million. So, we have a partnership with the extra dollars and DOT to provide the funding for it," he said.

Farmers in some areas of the state have been watching the deterioration of rural roads and bridges for many years and townships and counties rarely have the money to maintain, let alone fix those deficiencies. Especially in areas that were flooded in the last few years, there have been roads and bridges closed because those structures were condemned. These closures have forced many farmers to travel many extra miles just to get to their fields to do fieldwork and get their products to market.

States and State Legislatures in the region are funding a variety of projects that will benefit agriculture with the help of federal COVID relief money. The funded capital improvements for Extension include cattle handling facilities at the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center in Streeter, along with a house for the center director. Livestock system improvements also were funded at the Carrington Research Extension Center, as was a greenhouse necessary for canola research at the Langdon Research Extension Center, Wanzek said. 

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