Conferees on the omnibus agriculture finance bill approved what amounts to a first draft of their conference committee report Tuesday, adopting a delete-all amendment that gives the legislation its final shape while admitting more work must be done.
Sponsored by Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) and Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), HF895/SF780* would appropriate more than $100 million during the upcoming biennium to fund the Department of Agriculture, Board of Animal Health and Agricultural Utilization Research Institute.
Those General Fund direct appropriations, in the new version of the bill, include:
“This bill has been a work in progress,” Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) told his fellow conferees. “It’s had some hiccups. But the bill, as it is today, is what it is and it’s going to be laid over.”
Officials from the Agriculture Department told committee members they would review the bill Tuesday afternoon and be able to provide more specific feedback on it Wednesday.
Among its many provisions, the proposal would also provide funding for farmer-led councils meant to help implement the state’s buffer laws, provide money for research to prevent avian influenza, establish a pollinator habitat and research account, appropriate funds to manage the state’s industrial hemp pilot program, and fund reimbursement payments for destroyed or crippled livestock.
However, two House members raised objections to a provision that wasn’t included and would have funded efforts to increase access to affordable, nutritious foods in underserved communities.
“In my district, it’s significant, especially with the small grocery stores,” Rep. Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley) said.
Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin) was also disappointed the provision wasn’t included and said another measure to create a working group that would advise state officials on farm safety also should have been included.
Both hope those provisions can be revisited as negotiations on the bill continue.
“I know this could change a lot before we see it again,” Backer said.