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Conferees cultivate plan to resolve differences in agriculture and broadband legislation

House Photography file photo

Conferees started the process of resolving relatively small differences in the House and Senate versions of the omnibus agriculture and broadband bill, which would appropriate money to fund the Department of Agriculture, Board of Animal Health, Agricultural Utilization Research Institute and broadband services throughout the state.

Only $1.6 million separates the 2022-23 biennial spending requests in the House and Senate versions of the bill, which are $169.5 million and $167.9 million, respectively.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

Monday’s meeting began with a walkthrough of HF1524/SF958* from nonpartisan House and Senate fiscal and research staff, and ended with public testimony.

The conference committee is scheduled to continue its work beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

“We have made a commitment to make Minnesota agriculture more profitable and safer, more environmentally responsible, and more inclusive of non-traditional groups seeking to contribute to Minnesota agriculture,” said Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko), who sponsors the House language. “And I think we’re off to a good start.”

Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) sponsors the Senate version.

[MORE: View a side-by-side comparison]

A change sheet outlines major differences between the two versions, which include the following House- and Senate-only provisions.

House-only provisions would:

  • increase the rate of a fee specific to pesticide sales to 0.9%, up from 0.55% for agricultural pesticides and from 0.5% for nonagricultural pesticides;
  • 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;
  • require treated seeds to be disposed of in a manner consistent with directions and warnings provided;
  • 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.

Senate-only provisions would:

  • exempt from licensing requirements individuals who prepare and sell home-processed pet treats for dogs and cats;
  • require a report by the Department of Agriculture for the compensation program for livestock that is destroyed by a wolf or is so crippled by a wolf that it must be destroyed; and
  • prevent the Board of Animal Health from imposing a disease management or endemic zone for chronic wasting disease in deer unless chronic wasting disease is found on a specific property where a deer farm is located.

Broadband provisions

The Senate would appropriate an additional $40.7 million in the 2022-23 biennium, $10.7 million more than the House, but $10 million less than the governor, for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program. Each is a one-time transfer.

Managed by the Department of Employment and Economic Development, the program distributes grants to acquire and install middle- and last-mile infrastructure for high-speed broadband internet service in unserved and underserved areas in the state.

The Senate version would require the state, if allowed under federal law, to first spend federal COVID-19-related relief funds for broadband grants before using state-appropriated money.

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