With strong bipartisan support, the Minnesota House recently approved legislation that is designed to help our state, and our turkey and chicken growers, battle the avian flu outbreak that has devastated far too many flocks.
Our agriculture finance proposal appropriates $7 million to help officials deal with the epidemic over the next two years, and it also provides money that could go to reimburse chicken and turkey producers and processors for their losses. As of this writing, more than 5.5 million birds in Minnesota have been impacted.
Earlier, the House had approved $900,000 that provided immediate assistance to our farmers and those performing diagnostic work in an effort to control the virus, and also passed language allowing available federal funds to be utilized by a number of state agencies as they respond to the growing problem.
This situation is tragic to be sure, but the biggest mistake consumers could make right now is to quit buying turkey and chicken. Turkey and chicken are safe to eat. There is no public health risk. Minnesota's food supply has not been compromised, so please continue with your normal purchases of poultry because there is nothing to fear.
With only days remaining in the 2015 legislative session, hammering out a budget agreement has become our top priority.
Both the House and Senate have approved their budget bills for each spending area within state government, and now conference committees comprised of an equal number of senators and representatives have begun to work out the differences between each piece of legislation.
I was pleased to have been named to serve on the conference committee on taxes. As chairman of the House Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division, I have a number of provisions in this legislation so I have a vested interest in seeing our bill succeed. I also enjoy fighting for middle-class Minnesotans in hopes of allowing them to keep more of their hard earned money, so I'm looking forward to the process.
The 2015 session must end on May 18, so I will be sure to keep you updated on our budget-crafting progress.