‘Kicked in the gut:' House, Senate OK disaster loans for farm barn collapses

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The Minnesota Senate and House voted Thursday to extend no-interest loans to farmers whose barns have collapsed under the weight of snow and ice this winter.

Both votes were unanimous. State officials have estimated that 75 barns have fallen down this winter. The problem increased in February, one of the snowiest months on record in the Twin Cities.

The measure, authored by state Sen. Michael Goggin, R-Red Wing, adds snow, sleet and ice to the list of weather events that would qualify Minnesota farmers for loans under the state’s Disaster Recovery Loan Program.

“This is a great move to help make sure that disaster loans are available for farmers that’ve been kicked in the gut so hard with a barn collapse on top of the financial stress they’ve been facing on their family farm,” said state Sen. Torey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake.

A Democratic senator from northwest Minnesota said a machine shed on his family farm fell down last week.

“My brother and I were out trying to get the snow off the roof at the time that it went down. We could hear the frame cracking and breaking inside, and eventually the whole thing gave way,” said state Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley.

The farm’s combine, trucks and tractors were in the building when the roof caved, Eken said. He said his family would be assessing the damage next week when crews pull the collapsed roof off the equipment.

Goggin made public a map indicating that many of the barn collapses have happened in southeast Minnesota near Rochester.

Hours after the Senate’s 60-0 vote, the House took up the bill and approved it, 127-0. The measure heads to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk.