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Agriculture policy set to finish first as conferees reach agreement

One down and many others to go.

Approved Wednesday morning, the omnibus agriculture policy bill is the first omnibus bill to be wrapped up by its conference committee.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin) and Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne), HF1733 next needs to repassed by the House and Senate before going to the governor for his signature.

The process was sped significantly by the removal of some provisions that are included in the omnibus agriculture, food and housing finance bill. That measure awaits conference committee action.

Notable provisions in the bill would:

  • modify aquaculture regulations for saltwater practices;
  • add rest stop contractors to the list of state employees eligible for a reduced pesticide applicator licensing fee;
  • allow the Dept. of Agriculture to approve alternate practices for balled and burlapped nursery stock;
  • create a custom-exempt food handlers license for those handling products not for sale;
  • modify shelf-life regulations for eggs;
  • extend the Organic Advisory Task Force by five years;
  • allow the agriculture department to waive farm milk storage limits is the case of hardship, emergency, or natural disaster, and modify milk/dairy labelling requirements;
  • modify labelling for cheese made with unpasteurized milk;
  • expand the agriculture department’s power to restrict food movement after an emergency declaration;
  • modify eligibility and educational requirements for beginning farmer loans and tax credits;
  • modify the methane digester loan program to allow previous borrowers who have paid off a loan to access the program a second time;
  • increase participation limits for the opportunity loan program; and
  • exempt truck washes from the swine basin prohibition.

Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center) unsuccessfully tried to add a provision to grant the agriculture department the authority to delegate duties relating to the use, storage, and disposal of pesticides to cities of the first class. It failed on a 3-3 vote.

Gene Ramieri, director of public relations for the city of Minneapolis, cited an incident in which the city lost bee hives due to pesticide use, as well as increased pesticide use, as cause for concern.

But the issue may be moot, as the department may not have authority to delegate pesticide regulation to cities, according to Assistant Commissioner Susan Stokes. She added that Commissioner Thom Peterson plans to meet this summer with city stakeholders to better understand their concerns.


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