There was a party-line drawn in the proverbial sand Thursday over the omnibus agriculture and food finance bill. That line was chronic wasting disease, the fatal neurological disease that has been found in Minnesota’s farmed and wild deer herds.
The bill is now headed to the House Ways and Means Committee, where it is scheduled to be heard April 10. The companion, SF2226 sponsored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.
The bill was introduced Tuesday.
“We could have avoided the CWD topic altogether, but I think it was difficult to do that because these are cervidae farms and it’s under the Board of Animal Health,” said Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin), the division’s chair and omnibus bill sponsor.
Crafting good legislation requires cooperation and support from both sides of the aisle, Poppe noted. Changes were made in the bill’s proposals based on hearing concerns and holding discussion across party affiliations, and would continue to occur as the bill headed into conference committee.
Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) reminded Poppe that he continued to hold concerns over the impact of bill provisions on cervidae farmers.
Provisions in the bill relating to farmed cervidae (deer, elk, and moose) prompted a flurry of attempts to amend the bill Thursday. All failed, with a single exception.
Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), successfully amended the bill to include language ensuring cervidae farmers had access to the Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Expansion Loan Program. His concern was the negative impact a requirement for double fencing and gating might impose for deer and elk farmers.
Anderson successfully offered an amendment on another topic as well. It would require the Center for Rural Policy and Development to expand a study on community solar gardens to include their impact on adjacent property values. As introduced in the delate-all amendment, the study was to look just at the economic benefits of solar gardens to farmers and the local farm economy,