ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A University of Minnesota research program that aims to develop environmentally-friendly alternatives to corn and soybeans could get an extra $5 million a year funding boost under a new bill.

Minnesota Public Radio News reports that the proposed legislation would invest more into the Forever Green program, which has been developing a dozen crop varieties including Kernza and pennycress.

The program’s lead scientist, Don Wyse, says Kernza, a perennial wheatgrass, can help improve soil health and water quality.

The challenge is creating markets for crops like Kernza.

The state has invested between $1 million and $2 million a year into the program over the past several years.

Democratic Rep. Jeff Brand wrote the bill. Brand says it’s “time to invest in the research necessary to redefine the future for agriculture.”

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