How River Guardians helped us reach a clean-water crops milestone

Two packets of food snacks made with clean-water crops sit on a table in the foreground. In the blurred background, you can make out warehouse shelves and individuals talking.

The grants are available to organizations in Minnesota that work with clean-water crops, including businesses that make food and snacks. (Photo by FMR.)

Companies and organizations working with clean-water crops can now apply for new grants through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, marking an early milestone in our state’s development of this emerging industry.

FMR helped to design this grant program around the north star of the crops’ environmental benefits while also ensuring that equity considerations and fiscal prudence play a big role. Applicants will be able to receive up to $50,000; the department expects to award about $420,000 total.

River Guardians were instrumental in making this happen by successfully advocating for the grant program’s launch during the 2022 legislative session. This push helped to squeeze the proposal through the narrowest of windows, making it one of the few bills to gain bipartisan support in a contentious year.

Now, we are very much seeing the fruits of that labor.

Why this funding is so important

Launching a new product line (let alone a new company) around a novel crop can be risky. Public support helps to alleviate that risk and allows entrepreneurs to focus on innovation and product development, efforts that result in hazelnut snacks, baked goods and more.

If all goes right, it’s a virtuous cycle: More and better products drive increased consumer demand, which means more acres planted and more private-sector investment. Minnesotans get cleaner water, healthier soil, and a diversified economy — not to mention delicious foods and, in the case of some clean-water crops, even potential sustainable fuels.

We're hoping to repeat last session's success this year. FMR staff, our coalition partners and River Guardians are again making the case to lawmakers for early investments in the value chain – the seed processors, food manufacturers, and other businesses that will drive commercial adoption of Kernza, elderberries, winter camelina and other clean-water crops. 

Let us know if you’re part of a small or midsized business in Minnesota and want to learn more about the program, email FMR Agricultural Policy Manager Peter LaFontaine.

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Upcoming Events

Saturday, April 20, 2024 - 9:30am to 12:00pm
West River Parkway and 36th Street/44th Street, Minneapolis
Applications due Friday, May 3 by 5 p.m.
Virtual and in-person
Thursday, May 9, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Hastings Sand Coulee Scientific and Natural Area