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Changes to Board of Animal Health, cottage food law included in ag bill that passes House, Senate

A policy-only, compromise omnibus agriculture bill that includes changes to the state's cottage food law has received legislative approval, despite a disagreement over changes to the Board of Animal Health.

By a 79-55 vote, the conference committee report on HF1524/SF958* was passed by the House Monday and sent to the governor, after unanimously passing the Senate earlier in the day.

Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko), who co-chaired the conference committee with Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), said the bill "makes some good progress" on agriculture.

Rep. Nathan Nelson (R-Hinckley) said the bill includes some good policy provisions.

Monday's debate centered around the provision that would give the Board of Animal Health, which regulates livestock and domestic animals in Minnesota, six members instead of five, including four livestock producers instead of three.

The bill would require at least one of the producers be a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe located in Minnesota.

DFLers say the board has been too lax in regulating deer and elk farms, a major source of chronic wasting disease in the state. They also say it is important that Native American tribes have a voice on the board, which is appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate.

Republicans say the governor could appoint a tribal member if he wanted to and that the board is already doing a good job.

Another provision would allow Minnesotans who sell homemade, shelf-stable foods and beverages to more than quadruple their annual sales without a license, as proposed by Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center).

The bill would also exempt Minnesotans who sell baked or dehydrated pet treats from state licensure requirements.

Other provisions would:

  • allow the Department of Agriculture to hire a publicity representative;
  • exempt people that apply general-use sanitizers or disinfectants for hire in response to COVID-19 from commercial applicator license requirements;
  • exempt small meat processors who butcher fowl and game for hunters from state regulation, provided their annual sales are less than $20,000 or they process fewer than 200 deer annually;
  • allow farmed deer and elk located in chronic wasting disease management or endemic zones to be transported, if they have tested negative for CWD; and
  • require biofuel producers who receive payments under the Bioincentive Program to certify they will not use the funds on lobbyists.

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