Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday signed into law a measure authorizing the state to provide up to $35 million in loans to help Minnesota farmers buy land and improve their agricultural operations.

The bill, which received support from both Republicans and DFLers in the Legislature, continues the work of the  Rural Finance Authority. That program, launched in 1986, has provided $270 million in loans to more than 2,800 farmers across the state. It provides loans at terms and rates that farmers often cannot get elsewhere, and can help farmers restructure their debt or make other major improvements.

Dayton and lawmakers who attended a bill-signing ceremony said they were pleased to see the bill pass early in the five-month legislative session.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said the state has already been taking applications for the program and intends to move quickly to ensure farmers can secure the financing they need for the year ahead.

“The timing did work out,” Frederickson said. “If we would have moved this further into the spring, it would have been a problem.”

Above: Gov. Mark Dayton signs the Rural Finance Authority Bill as lawmakers, including bill author Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia look on. Lang was joined at the bill signing by his sons.