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Renewed agriculture conference committee report passed by House

By Mike Cook
Rep. Rod Hamilton, the House sponsor of the omnibus agriculture finance bill, speaks during floor debate on the conference committee report on HF1545. The report passed the House 124-5. Photo by Paul Battaglia

The omnibus agriculture bill was the first passed by the House as members began late Saturday night to move a second set of budgets to Gov. Mark Dayton.

Sponsored by Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) and Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), the conference committee report on HF1545*/ SF1545 will head to the Senate following the 124-5 vote.

“When it comes to ag, it’s an honorable, honorable, noble profession and we want to continue doing what we can to bring people together and make changes as they’re necessary,” Hamilton said.

The report represents a $4.97 million increase in the budget target, mostly in operating adjustments. In total, the agreement would appropriate $105.45 million for the Department of Agriculture, $10.87 million for the Board of Animal Health and $7.59 million for the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute.

“We agreed with the governor and the department to remove the earmarks out of the AGRI account except for … two large ones for value-added and then also for good food and urban ag,” Hamilton said.

Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) said there are a couple policy changes since the bill last left the House: an addition and an omission.

“The addition is language pertaining to verification of need,” he said. “We finally agreed on language after a lot of negotiation and arrived at language that’s suitable to all parties.

“The other one was an omission, that we took out the language and wording pertaining to the ag nuisance lawsuits. We think we have an agreement and a bill that the governor can sign.”

Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin) said the initial House proposal was “a very good bill,” but that this bill is better.

“The additional dollars help us with noxious weeds,” she said.“That was something that we had talked about, we need to have the noxious weed person to be able to help support the work that needs to be done there.”

Poppe also spoke highly of additional dollars for the good food access program, which helps establish facilities for the sale of healthy, affordable food in areas of the state where better access to those foods is needed.

A compromise on farmer-lender mediation “was absolutely critical” to Rep. Clark Johnson (DFL-North Mankato). “We have to extend the date for the farmer-lender mediation program. This is essential to securing financial stability for farmers in a time of need," he said.

Currently, a waste pesticide program surcharge of $50 is collected on each pesticide product registered in the state as part of a pesticide product registration application. The report calls for no fee increase for an agricultural waste pesticide product, but a $125 fee is created for nonagricultural waste pesticide product.

“I don’t know why the increase is only on the non-ag,” said Rep. David Bly (DFL-Northfield). “The governor’s instincts are that let’s make sure all Minnesotans come together, whether you’re farming or whether you’re not farming, and let’s make sure that we are using chemicals wisely. Let’s make sure we are looking out for pollinators. That’s part of whole ag system.”

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