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House panel hears broader omnibus agriculture finance bill

House Photography file photo

Three weeks after hearing an initial draft of the omnibus agriculture finance bill, the latest version was discussed Wednesday by the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee.

The delete-all amendment to HF1524, sponsored by Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko), is nearly identical to the first draft when it comes to funding, but it includes more policy provisions.

The committee plans to take amendments and act on the bill Friday. Its companion, SF958, is sponsored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) received committee approval Wednesday and awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

The bill maintains the policy proposals included in the first draft, such as an increase on a pesticide sales tax and the creation of a biofuels infrastructure financial-assistance program.

Among the new provisions, it would allow the Department of Agriculture to hire a publicist and authorize it to accept gifts on behalf of the Emerging Farmers' Working Group.

Other notable provisions would:

  • require the department to establish and implement a grant program to provide up to $50,000 to eligible farmers for new cooperatives that process or market agricultural services, or the farmers’ agricultural products;
  • require people who label and sell agricultural, vegetable, flower or wildflower seed treated with neonicotinoid pesticides to include a caution statement on the product label that includes specified text and a department-approved bee icon. Those seeds would need to be disposed of in a manner consistent with directions and warnings provided;
  • allow Minnesotans who sell homemade, shelf-stable foods and beverages such as baked goods, to more than quadruple their annual sales without a license;
  • exempt small meat processors who butcher fowl and game for hunters from state regulation, provided their annual sales are less than $20,000;
  • add two members to the Board of Animal Health: one veterinarian and one person who has knowledge of animal health and is a member of a federally recognized tribe located in Minnesota; and
  • increase from 90 to 120 days the period in which creditors are prohibited from enforcing debts subject to the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act.

Disagreement on pesticides

Minnesota farmers and their advocates say the additional funds proposed for meat processing, emerging farmers and farm safety are important.

Supporters of biofuels also applaud the proposed $4 million next biennium for the infrastructure financial-assistance program.

But views diverge when it comes to pesticide proposals. Tim Waibel, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, opposes the proposed increase on the pesticide sales tax.

In a letter, he also opposes requiring a warning label for seed treated with neonicotinoids. He said such seed is not used to produce ethanol in Minnesota and that adding it to a seed label could give the public the impression that it is.

Pollinator advocates want more stringent restrictions and are urging House members to include a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos and a proposal to increase fees on dicamba herbicides in the final bill.


Whats in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus agriculture finance bill:

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