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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R)

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Legislative report

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Dear Neighbor,

The Minnesota House may be out of session right now, but legislative work continues and it is good to have more time back home to meet with people in our district. A number of ag-related issues have crossed my desk of late and here are some notes on those:

Delaying adoption of new nitrogen rule

House and Senate resolutions to delay the adoption of a new nitrogen rule, which would further regulate the use of fertilizer, have been formally published.

The new ruling put forward by Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration impacting the application of fertilizer has raised significant concerns in the agriculture community. While formal implementation the rule is not scheduled to occur until 2020, the Legislature invoked Section 14.126 of state law, effectively pausing the rule to allow the next Legislature to further examine the issue during the 2019 session.

There are still major concerns that need to be addressed on this issue and it would be helpful to have time during the 2019 session to shine a light on those things. People see the lack of oversight on the nitrogen rule brought forward by the governor’s administration and just want to be heard before we get too far down the wrong path. Farmers are good stewards of the land, yet this is another one of those top-down government pushes where people in Greater Minnesota are left wondering how metro bureaucrats can be so out of touch.”

The resolutions may be found on pages 1,544-1,545 at this link.

Rural mental health

A recent MPR article shared some information on suicide rates among farmers. People whose occupations are farming, fishing or forestry are five times more likely to take their own lives than people in all occupations combined.

The article indicates there is just one rural mental health counselor covering the whole state. The story indicates the sole counselor said he, “had hoped he'd get some help this year to create another position like his. But Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the legislation with that funding last month.”

Interestingly, a bill (H.F. 3255) I authored would have provided $140,000 next year for to support increased mental health counseling for farmers. I touched on this in a March update, where I wrote, “This bill is really going to expand mental health access to people in Minnesota, especially farmers. The issue is that we’ve got one person that works across the state. We have a big state geographically, and it can be tough getting around to people. We heard from a lot of people who work in this industry that maybe there’s room for a second person and so my bill essentially works to fund that position to help divide the state up a bit and make it easier to serve those around the state.”

This funding is just one more good provision that fell victim to the governor’s political games. At least he enacted this year’s bonding bill, which featured $28 million for more general mental health crisis centers.

Requesting a dicamba extension

House members are asking the Minnesota Dept. of Ag. for some leeway on a new June 20 deadline for the application of dicamba herbicides in farm fields. The request is for the deadline to be extended through the end of the month to help make up for the fact heavy April snowfalls and persistent June rain in parts of the state held up the planting season. Once farmers got in their fields, there has been very little time to spray their dicamba-tolerant soybeans this year, the first in which the state’s new June 20 deadline is in place.

North Dakota has a June 30th cut-off date and the hope is we can set the same date in Minnesota. Also, we should be clear that applicators would be expected to continue following all of the other requirements if some grace is provided on the deadline.