A provision that would prohibit the Department of Agriculture from adopting mandatory rules for nitrogen fertilizer without approval by the Legislature caused a split in the usually bipartisan House Agriculture Policy Committee Wednesday.
It would make several technical and policy changes, but the nitrogen language caused DFL committee members to vote against a bill several said they otherwise support. Elevated levels of nitrates in drinking water can be harmful to humans.
The provision prohibiting the department from adopting nitrogen rules mirrors HF2887, a bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley), which the committee debated March 15. Backer said Wednesday it isn’t the role of government agencies to create laws; that responsibility belongs to the Legislature, and this language allowed the process to function as it should.
But Rep. Clark Johnson (DFL-North Mankato) offered an amendment to remove the provision saying it added politics where it didn’t belong by including the Legislature, a partisan body, in the rulemaking process.
“To insert partisan politics into the kind of efforts we make to have clean drinking water … a fundamental need that every human being has, I think is the wrong way to govern,” Johnson said.
Johnsons’ amendment failed on a 10-6 party-line vote. An amendment offered by Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin), that she said would also have deleted the provision but clarified the Legislature’s role as one of oversight, was also voted down – this time by a 10-5 party-line vote.
The committee did adopt two other amendments without opposition.
The first would allow municipalities to do energy feasibility studies that would then allow them to gain financing for energy projects. The second contains the same language as HF2982, passed by the House Monday, which would classify some agriculture data as private. Anderson said adding the language would give it another path to become law should the standalone legislation fail.
Other provisions in HF4133 would:
What’s in the bill?
The following are selected bills that have been incorporated fully, or in part, into the omnibus agriculture policy bill: