ST. PAUL, MN—The Minnesota House passed the omnibus Agriculture Finance bill Monday
with overwhelming bipartisan support on a 110-18 vote. The bill includes amendments by Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, to help state agencies continue to combat avian flu and to extend much-needed assistance to farmers and workers impacted by the epidemic. Amendments successfully offered by Baker included:
Funding for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Board of Animal Health, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Department of Public Safety to cover costs associated with avian flu response
Allowing transfer of funds between state agencies for avian flu-related expenses.
Expanding state disaster loan recovery program eligibility to help farmers impacted by avian flu, increasing the loan cap to $200,000 for any eligible poultry grower or supplier.
Baker's amendment was also amended by Representative Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, to extend unemployment benefits for turkey industry employees for an additional 13 weeks.
Representative Baker issued the following statement on the passage of the Agriculture Finance bill:
"The legislature has a long tradition of stepping up for Minnesotans in times of need," Baker said. "This Agriculture bill will give state agencies the resources and flexibility necessary to continue their response to the avian flu epidemic, and help provide much-needed assistance to the farmers whose livelihoods have been put in jeopardy. I'm proud of the broad bipartisan support for this bill, and am glad the legislature could act this year to make these funds available."