I hope this message finds you and your family doing well as the weather warms up. As we look ahead to summer, there are plenty of reasons for all of us to be optimistic. Vaccines continue to go in arms, now with about half of all Minnesotans 16 or older getting a shot, and over three million doses being distributed.
Following a challenging year, our economy is also headed in the right direction. The unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% in March, down from a revised 4.4% in February. Minnesota gained 21,600 jobs in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, putting our job growth at the highest point since the pandemic started. We still have a long ways to go, but there are currently over 100,000 job postings across the state. CareerForce has professional employment counselors and other resources available if you’re looking for a job or perhaps a new career.
It’s been my honor this session to chair the House Agriculture Committee. We’ve assembled our Agriculture Budget bill which we will consider on the House Floor soon. The bill funds the operations of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Board of Animal Health, and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute. The bill funds our noxious weed program, more resources for meat and poultry inspection, our industrial hemp program, and mental health outreach to allow Minnesota’s Farmer and Rural Helpline to continue operating.
Additionally, the bill includes the following measures:
Agriculture is a relatively small part of the state budget but plays an enormous role in our state’s economic opportunity, not to mention ensuring we all have food to eat. I’m grateful for our farmers and everyone who works in agriculture, and this bill will help ensure a stronger future. A summary of the bill can be accessed here.
Last week I had the opportunity to join Governor Walz, Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen, and bipartisan lawmakers for a press conference about our efforts to invest in the Biofuels Infrastructure Grant Program. The Governor’s budget proposal and our House Agriculture Budget invest $2 million per year to increase access to ethanol and biodiesel across the state. These grants would give service station owners across Minnesota funding to install the equipment needed to ramp up use of higher blends of biofuels, such as E15 (gas that is 15% ethanol), E30 (30% ethanol), and E80 (80% ethanol).
Minnesota’s ethanol industry generated $4.4 billion in revenue in 2020 and supports nearly 14,500 jobs – including an estimated 3,600 jobs in agriculture and 3,900 jobs indirectly supported in the corn production supply chain. These are important investments to help consumers have cheaper fuel, support our farmers, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change.
Over the next several days we will be working on the House Floor to debate and adopt our House DFL budget bills. I encourage you to follow along with our work. House Public Information Services has a variety of nonpartisan resources including streaming video and Session Daily with recaps of floor action. While we’re working largely virtually, the State Capitol is still the people’s house. Be sure to stay in touch with your input as we move forward in assembling a new state budget.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your viewpoints, feedback, or if I can ever be of assistance. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number at the Capitol is 651-296-4308. Feel free to be in touch any time.