Members of the House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division got a look at the supplemental agriculture finance bill Thursday as they consider how to help a sector being buffeted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re going to be facing some really tough times with the budget, but also we’re also facing tough times in the ag sector,” said Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin), the division chair and sponsor of HF4490. “There’s just a lot of heartbreak within the ag community.”
The division is scheduled to consider amendments and vote on the bill May 5.
Among the proposed spending is a $25,000 increase in fiscal year 2021 — to $292,000 — for farm advocate services. Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-St. Peter) questioned whether that is enough.
“I think $25,000 would certainly help,” said Peder Kjeseth, director of government affairs for the Department of Agriculture. “Our farm advocates are certainly seeing a lot of work right now.”
The delete-all amendment to the bill also includes the following increases in fiscal year 2021:
The bill’s net impact on the General Fund is $1 million.
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Up to 6% of total program dollars each fiscal year are to go to promote and administer farm safety grant and outreach programs to farmers and schools.
Poppe said the Senate companion, SF4395, sponsored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) also spends $1 million, but is different in some areas, although both bills have funding for the veterinary laboratory and farm safety advocates.
Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) is glad those large items are in both bills. “It looks to be a pretty good bill,” he said.