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Policy bill awaits floor action

Published (5/6/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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An omnibus policy bill, approved May 4 by the House Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and Finance Committee, would change how public grain storage facilities calculate their bonding requirements.

Sponsored by Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), HF1611 also makes technical changes to agricultural laws. It now moves to the House floor. A companion, SF1324, sponsored by Sen. Doug Magnus (R-Slayton), awaits action by the full Senate.

Public grain storage warehouses currently bond based on 50 percent of the net liability of monthly peak dollar value of grain stored. This method requires monthly reports by grain elevators, and there is a lag between monthly bonding and incremental grain value totals. Under proposed changes, elevators would only need to report once a year. The annual average of storage liability would be used to calculate the amount of bonding necessary. This could reduce the bonding amounts and prevent over-bonding, according to Department of Agriculture officials.

One of the technical changes would encourage more counties to collect wasted or leftover pesticides on behalf of the state collection program. About 60 counties have a cooperative agreement to collect pesticides, but another 17 counties are concerned about the recordkeeping requirements in the indemnification contract, according to Greg Buzicky, director of the department’s Pesticide and Fertilizer Management Division. The bill would allow for electronic data collection and would pay counties 10 cents for every pound of pesticide they report, in addition to the 25 cents per pound they already receive for waste pesticide collection.

Dealers who don’t sell pesticides as their main function would be able to request an exemption from reporting requirements.

Another technical change would add utility companies to the registry of tree-care providers. Many utilities have in-house nursery staff. The department maintains a list in order to notify tree-care professionals about urgent matters, such as the discovery of invasive species.

The Agriculture Department also certifies how seeds and plants are treated before they can be exported. Each country has its own plant import regulations and sometimes the certification fee does not cover the cost of the department’s work. Rather than a set fee, the bill would enable the department to charge a fee necessary to recover its costs. The program is self-supporting and does not receive General Fund dollars.

Other changes proposed include redefining “pasture” to include crop fields where livestock graze following fall harvest and giving the Board of Animal Health more flexibility in determining quarantine boundaries when diseased animals are discovered.

Language was inserted into the bill regarding who has authority to require pesticide permits on certain water bodies. The Pollution Control Agency seeks a broad definition that may include pools of water on land, while the agriculture industry prefers the narrower federal definition of water bodies that can be navigated. Hamilton, the committee chairman, said discussions are ongoing.

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