Thank you to Joe Gill of KASM 1150 for coming to St. Paul for Dairy Day at the Capitol this week. As has been the case for a number of years now, Joe set up shop right in my legislative office and conducted a broadcast to discuss all things dairy with numerous guests appearing. Thanks, Joe, for all the air time you make for dairy and ag. in general. On a separate ag. note, farm safety has been a topic of discussion of late with dangerous conditions in grain bins leading to numerous deaths. I recorded a quick video on this subject to raise public awareness. Please be careful and avoid entering grain bins at all cost. Click here for the video.
Wrapping up another busy week in St. Paul, where a House Republican proposal to allocate $50 million for a depleted loan program which aids farmers was blocked.
The Rural Finance Authority (RFA) loan program runs out of funds on Friday, according the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. House Republicans attempted to replenish those funds to eliminate uncertainty for farmers and help them prepare for the upcoming growing season.
Demand for RFA programs remains high as farmers work to overcome low commodity prices and razor-thin margins. Unfortunately, the funds to support the RFA programs have run out. The growing season is right around the corner and there is concern that delaying until the end of the legislative session to address this issue will be too late for some people. There is no good reason to wait, so it is disappointing to see the majority refused to declare urgency on this matter so we can help farmers.
The RFA partners with agricultural lenders to provide low-cost financing to farmers on terms and conditions not otherwise available from other credit sources. The RFA portion of the loan is carried at a reduced interest rate to improve the cash flow of eligible farmers. RFA offer loans within the beginning farmer loan and seller assisted program, agricultural improvement program, debt restructuring program, and livestock expansion programs.
This week we also unveiled a package of proposals aimed at improving public safety in Minnesota communities.
The bills are in response to a rise in violent crime on Metro Transit vehicles and in many parts of the Twin Cities. Taken together, they target many of the issues driving crime in the Metro area, including gang and drug trafficking activity, as well as the need for additional officers and tools for law enforcement to combat crime on the light rail lines and in communities.
This issue is not just a Minneapolis or St. Paul thing, it’s something impacting people statewide and needs to be addressed. The bills that were unveiled Monday would be steps in the right direction, including:
In other news, a column I submitted to area papers this week touched on how the state’s population growth may impact the Legislature, with our rural representation will once again shrinking. Our districts in Greater Minnesota will need to become geographically larger so they will encompass the new population figure. Metro districts, on the other hand, will get smaller because more people are living in those concentrated areas.
I also mentioned in my column that the high cost of insulin for those who suffer from diabetes has been in the news. We don’t want anyone needing the drug to go without because of the cost. Within the last year, three major health insurers in Minnesota have announced reduced or $0 co-pays for insulin. In addition, those covered by any of the state insurance programs also have access to reduced prices. It appears the only group currently unable to source insulin for reduced pricing is the group on Medicare caught in the “donut hole” of drug coverage. That’s a federal issue, one that hopefully can be addressed in the near future.
Please check your local paper for my column, or click here to see it in its entirety.