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Divided ag committee OK’s omnibus bill addressing animal health, pesticides, broadband

With new spending to grow meat-processing capacity, support emerging farmers, address a growing concern about neonicotinoids and forever chemicals, not to mention appropriating $100 million additional dollars to expand access to broadband, the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee approved its omnibus agriculture finance bill on a split voice vote Thursday.

Sponsored by Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center), HF2278, as amended, now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The bill aims to address issues facing rural and urban agriculture and support both the environment and economic development, she said.

[MORE: Read about the bill; View the spreadsheet]

The committee’s Republican lead, Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) said the bill includes many good things, but he has concerns about several provisions, citing an increase in the fertilizer tax and higher permit fees as examples.

Two amendments unsuccessfully offered sought to modify a provision that would prohibit the Department of Agriculture from registering pesticides that have perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances as an active or inert ingredient.

Anderson said the PFAS provision is one of the most important in the bill as it could have a big impact on what is available for farmers to use. He offered an amendment to delete the provision, and Rep. Bobbie Harder (R-Henderson) offered an amendment that would have the provision apply only to active ingredients. Both expressed concerns about the cost and the Department of Agriculture’s testing capacity.

Another unsuccessful amendment would have deleted a provision that would increase the Board of Animal Health to 11 members and open membership beyond livestock producers and veterinarians.  

Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) who contributed that section of the bill, said he is open to further conversations, but would like to ensure each Congressional district is represented.  

Rep. John Burkel (R-Badger) unsuccessfully offered an amendment to take $1 million targeted to a winter greenhouse program and put it into organizations that have traditionally received state funding –including the Minnesota State Poultry Association, the Minnesota Livestock Breeders Association, the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, and the Minnesota Turf Seed Council. 

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