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House lawmakers unveil ag omnibus bill that features new opportunities for farming, food processing industries

(House Photography file photo)
(House Photography file photo)

Creating new and additional opportunities for farming, meat processing, developing winter-hardy crops, eliminating noxious weeds and soil health initiatives are major provisions included in the omnibus agriculture supplemental finance and policy bill.

The House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee on Monday received a walkthrough of a delete-all amendment to HF4366 and took public testimony. The committee plans to vote on the proposal Wednesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko), the bill’s provisions would also, in part, prohibit plastic-coated fertilizers and pesticides, set provisions for seed treated with a neonicotinoid pesticide, establish a moratorium on white-tailed deer farms, develop an aquaculture program, expand the Farm to School grant program, and provide farm down payment assistance.

The bill would set a new appropriation of more than $63.8 million in fiscal year 2022 (a $4.49 million increase) and more than $107.9 million in fiscal year 2023 (a $48.51 million increase) to the Department of Agriculture. A new appropriation for the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute would be more than $4.74 million in the current fiscal year and more than $7.24 million in the current biennium, a $200,000 and $3.2 million increase, respectively.

The bill would also include appropriations in the next biennium for a number of programs.

[MORE: See the spreadsheet]

“I think this package coupled with the drought package that’s moving separately represents a strong investment in agriculture and moves us in the right direction,” Sundin said.

Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen likes many of the bill’s provisions. He did note that the bill doesn’t include work on a grain indemnity account and wants to continue to work with the Legislature regarding the issue.

“When we put this budget together just looking at what some other states have done and looking at our surplus and looking at things that we could do that were strong investments for Minnesota,” Petersen said. “Also, a lot of these ideas and things that you see in the bill are coming from members but also from administration. A lot of these ideas came from Minnesotans through the portal that the governor had set up and had strong support.”

In addition to establishing a grant program to help farmers finance new cooperatives, the bill would provide the following funds in fiscal year 2023:

  • $6.5 million to the University of Minnesota for the Forever Green Initiative;
  • $4.5 million for an agricultural emergency account;
  • $3 million for farm down payment assistance;
  • $3 million for grants to Second Harvest Heartland for hunger relief;
  • $2.6 million for grants for emerging farmers;
  • $2 million for a pollinator research account;
  • $2 million for a noxious weed and invasive species account;
  • $2 million to the University of Minnesota for a study on heritage seeds;
  • $2 million to the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute to acquire property, construct and equip offices and research laboratories;
  • $1.5 million for an Ag Innovation Campus soybean facility; and
  • $1 million to the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute for equipment upgrades and replacement.

Among the concerns of Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) is language that would prohibit the plastic-coated fertilizer, plant-based foods being eligible for refunding and a moratorium on deer farms.

Anderson noted that farmers use environmentally smart nitrogen fertilizer on crops as a form of time-release nitrogen. A replacement is likely several years away.

“That’s very problematic, I think, and is actually taking a step backward in terms of stewardship environmentally here in Minnesota,” Anderson said.

He added about the plant-based food refunding: “I think there was a bevy of testimony against that type of thing in committee when the bill was heard, but the language showed up in the omnibus bill anyway. So, I have some concerns about including a plant-based food in this really livestock heavy state of Minnesota.”

The Senate agriculture and rural development omnibus bill, SF4019, is sponsored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) and awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.


What's in the bill?

The following are select bills incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus agriculture bill:

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