ST. PAUL – By a vote of 110-18, the Minnesota House overwhelmingly approved the budget bill for agriculture for the upcoming biennium. State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) supported the measure.
"The focus of this legislation is on food safety, strengthening and improving Minnesota's crops, providing for emergency response efforts, and renewing the commitment toward Minnesota's ag exports around the world," Torkelson said. "Agriculture is the backbone of Minnesota's economy, and I'm pleased House lawmakers gave this legislation strong bipartisan support."
The bill includes:
• $7 million to help officials deal with the Avian Influenza epidemic, and money that could go to reimburse chicken and turkey producers and processors for their losses.
• Funding to encourage the development of ag teachers in Minnesota high schools.
• The reinstatement of the Farm Business Management Program • Funding for research and development projects at the University of Minnesota
• Payment of un-reimbursed claims to farmers who have had livestock destroyed by wolves
• Encouraging a greater Farm-To-Foodshelf program by allocating grants to food shelves to buy milk from Minnesota dairy farms. It also encourages farmers to donate extra crops to local charities
"We are prioritizing farmers with this bill, especially our poultry growers who have been devastated by the avian flu outbreak," Torkelson said. "It's important to remind everyone that our food supply is safe, and despite the outbreak Minnesota's turkey and chicken remains safe to eat."
Since the Minnesota Senate has approved a separate bill, Torkelson said a conference committee will be appointed to work out the differences between the two measures.