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Agriculture, housing and rural development omnibus bill headed to governor

There was plenty of praise from both sides of the aisle for the omnibus agriculture, housing, and rural development budget bill.

“It is a balanced bill that I would be very happy to sign at any time,” said Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont).

That support showed with passage of the legislation by a 114-14 vote Friday.

Codifying the agreement reached on the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin) and Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), during the regular legislative session, the bill was passed 66-0 by the Senate. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

The bill would provide $287.85 million from the General Fund for the Department of Agriculture, Board of Animal Health, Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, Housing Finance Agency and Office of Broadband Development. That represents an increase of $59.51 million over base. Of the boost, $40 million would be earmarked for broadband, $15 million for housing and $4.51 million for agriculture purposes.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet, bill summary]

The inclusion of housing and broadband to the agriculture provisions produced what opposition to the bill was offered.

Taking aim at the $40 million earmarked for broadband, Rep. Pat Garafalo (R-Farmington) called the appropriation a matter of “squandering on a program that technology is resolving.”

The House had organized agriculture, housing and broadband in separate committees. But, in order to align with the Senate committee structure, the three were combined into one bill for the conference committee process, as was pointed out by Rep. Alice Houseman (DFL-St. Paul), who serves as chair of the House Housing Finance and Policy Division.

The bill also includes a number of policy provisions relating to Department of Agriculture grants and loans, pesticides, fertilizer, hemp, pastures, bioincentive programs, grain buyers, grain warehouses, manufactured homes, Housing Finance Agency loans and grants, Minnesota Bond Allocation Act and residential leases.


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