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Minnesota Legislature

Omnibus agriculture policy bill advances after negotiations with Senate

After several days of negotiations with Senate Republicans, the House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division approved the omnibus agriculture policy bill during a remote hearing Thursday.

Modified by a delete-all amendment, HF4285 includes initiatives requested by Gov. Tim Walz and the Department of Agriculture, along with provisions from other bills the panel heard earlier this session.

It would modify state seed and noxious weed laws, and laws governing perishable farm product buyers, state loan programs, eggs, meat and poultry inspections, farm safety, grain buyers, emerging farmers, hemp, agricultural education and pet food.

Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin), the division chair, said it has been odd to negotiate the bill through phone calls and emails, but she and her counterpart, Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne), think it’s a good bill.

When unveiling the bill Tuesday, Poppe said it was 99% in agreement with the Senate.

Approved with all positive votes, the bill goes to the House Ways and Means Committee. Its companion, SF4223, awaits action by the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Policy Committee.

The amended bill would eliminate licensing and bonding requirements for farm product dealers that were designed to protect sellers of perishable agriculture products if the buyer reneged on the purchase.

Peder Kjeseth, the Agriculture Department’s director of government affairs, said during a previous hearing the protection wasn’t widely used and many purchase agreements are verbal, so there is often not documentation to support claims against a purchaser’s bond.

There was concern from stakeholders that strictly enforcing these licensing requirements could be a disincentive to buy Minnesota goods. An advisory group of fruit and vegetable growers, grocers, dairy and poultry farmers felt the cost of implementing the licensing and bonding requirements was greater than the benefits it provided.

This portion was amended Thursday to restore the exemption in current law for certain marketing co-ops, such as sugar beet co-ops, from being included in the definition of farm products dealers.

The bill would also:

  • modify seed and noxious weed law, including regulatory categories for noxious weeds and the management plans used to control noxious weeds;
  • classify data the Agriculture Department gets from industrial hemp applicants and licensees as private;
  • create a working group the agriculture commissioner must periodically convene to support emerging farmers. The group must include women, veterans, people with disabilities, American Indian or Alaskan Natives, and communities of color;
  • encourage the department to advance up to half of grant awards to new farmers, members of protected groups or veterans. The committee amended the 50% requirement out of the bill Thursday after negotiations with the Senate;
  • allow the commissioner to awards grants to farmers and schools that retrofit tractors with rollover prevention devices;
  • allow the Agriculture Department to award grants to farmers who purchase grain storage safety equipment and create a farm safety outreach program;
  • give veterinarians immunity from civil or criminal liability when they report suspected animal cruelty or put an animal down when it has been mistreated to the point where it cannot humanely be saved;
  • appropriate $5 million for soybean processing and research;
  • require the Agriculture Department to develop recommendations on how best to provide financial and technical workplace safety assistance to farmers; and
  • require the department to prepare a report outlining the state’s ability to meet the petroleum replacement goal in Minnesota law and utilize biofuels to achieve the greenhouse gas reductions no later than Jan. 15.

 

What’s in the bill?

The following bills have been incorporated in part, or completely, into the omnibus agriculture policy bill:

 


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