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Final ethanol payments draw near (new law)

Published (4/29/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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Rep. Rod Hamilton, right, gets a handshake from Gov. Mark Dayton and a pat on the back from 
Sen. Doug Magnus after Dayton signed the omnibus agriculture budget law, during an April 15 signing ceremony. (Photo by Tom Olmscheid)A new law will allocate nearly $79 million during the next two years to fund the Department of Agriculture, the Board of Animal Health and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute. A few policy provisions are included as well.

Sponsored by Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) and Sen. Doug Magnus (R-Slayton), the law, signed by Gov. Mark Dayton April 15, has various effective dates.

More than $16 million in expected final ethanol producer payments will be doled out over the next two years, ending a 1980s program to incentivize farmers to grow corn for biofuel. The legislation also funds research and innovation for switching from corn to cellulosic materials, such as perennial plants in order to produce bioenergy. The repeal of the ethanol producer payments is effective June 30, 2013.

There is a one-time $490,000 appropriation over the next biennium to help the department catch up with an estimated 40 percent backlog of food handling inspections at convenience stores, grocers and other retail outlets. It does not include restaurants, which are inspected by the Department of Health. A progress report is due to the Legislature by Feb. 1, 2013, to address whether higher fees are necessary to eliminate a funding shortfall.

Another report, due at the same time, will examine how to pay for increased oversight of anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer that can be dangerous when improperly stored or applied. Until then, those who are compliant in their fertilizer application will be inspected less frequently. The law also authorizes the Agriculture Department to hire commercial inspectors. Grant programs are funded to develop and market locally grown products for retail sale and to encourage farmers who are interested in projects that demonstrate sustainable farming methods. Annual cost-share payments will also be available to those who seek certification status as an organic farmer.

Other grant appropriations will support ongoing efforts of the dairy industry, Northern Crops Institute, Livestock Breeders Association, Minnesota Poultry Association and other agriculture-related organizations.

The Board of Animal Health, which manages prevention and eradication of animal disease outbreaks, such as chronic wasting disease or bovine tuberculosis, will receive $4.8 million during the next biennium.

AURI, a research organization that provides scientific and technical assistance to Minnesota industries and entrepreneurs, is being funded at $2.6 million each of the next two fiscal years.

Policy changes in the law include allowing farmers to bury concrete and rebar from a former structure on their land. The solid waste burial would need to be recorded within 90 days with the county and show the boundary of the burial location.

Oversight for the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation program will be broadened to include the entire Legislature rather than specified members and the Department of Agriculture.

A new wholesale produce dealers’ account may now be created within the agricultural fund. Another policy provision will enable county fair boards to exchange land, in addition to leasing, selling or renting property at fairgrounds. The policy changes take effect Aug. 1, 2011.

HF1039/ SF1016*/CH14

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