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Despite disagreements, omnibus agriculture bill gains approval

House Photography file photo
House Photography file photo

The omnibus agriculture finance and policy bill has been approved, despite disagreement on pesticides, biofuel, the Board of Animal Health, farmer-lender mediation and disposal of pesticide-coated seeds.

In a 9-4 vote Friday, the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee approved HF1524, sponsored by Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko), as amended, and referred it to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center), who voted for it, said she appreciates the bill's support for emerging farmers.

Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), who also voted for the bill, said he appreciates the funding included for a biofuels infrastructure financial-assistance program, though he wishes more money would have been allocated to it. He does not think the proposed increase to pesticide fees is warranted.

[MORE: House panel hears broader omnibus agriculture finance bill]

Nine amendments to the delete-all amendment were offered Friday, six of which were approved and four of which generated considerable committee discussion.

Sponsored by Rep. Dale Lueck (R-Aitkin), the A3 amendment, was voted down 7-5. It would have removed proposed changes to the composition of, and control of appointments on, the Board of Animal Health, which is tasked with protecting the state's domesticated animals.

Lueck does not believe the board's composition should be changed as it undergoes farmed deer and elk rulemaking and said the Legislature should retain influence over it. DFLers said the board needs reform.

The A5 amendment, sponsored by Rep. Nathan Nelson (R-Hinckley), was also voted down. It would have removed proposed changes to the University of Minnesota-run Farmer-Lender Mediation program, which allows indebted farmers to request the help of trained mediators in reaching agreements with creditors.

The bill would increase the maximum length of mediation from 60 to 90 days and increase from 90 to 120 days the period in which debts on farmers who have requested mediation cannot be enforced.

The A6 amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Burkel (R-Badger), was also voted down. It would have removed the proposed increase to pesticide fees and the proposed requirement that neonicotinoid-coated or treated seeds be disposed of in a manner consistent with directions on product labels.

Sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), the A8 amendment, would require biofuel producers who receive payments under the Bioincentive Program to certify they won't use the funds on lobbyists.

The amendment, which was approved, would also require producers to meet new reporting requirements, providing information such as the number of jobs created, board member compensation and how payments are used.

Rep. Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg), who supported the amendment, said the Legislature should require more information from recipients of public funds. Lueck said the amendment singles out certain agricultural producers.

Its companion, SF958, is sponsored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) and received committee approval Wednesday. It awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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