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Lawmakers strike weekend agreement on agriculture budget as conference committee wraps up its work

Historic investments in emerging farmers, staffing help for the Department of Agriculture’s international trade office and a new safety net for grain farmers are all part of the omnibus agriculture, broadband and rural development finance agreement approved by a conference committee Saturday.

No floor vote has been scheduled for the final product that represents a $148 million increase over current levels, and includes $100 million to expand access to high-speed internet.

A centerpiece of the budget would be $10 million to start a grain indemnity fund, which would offer farmers recompense if an elevator goes bankrupt. Farmers choosing to participate in the program would pay premiums when the fund dips below $8 million.

“I’m happy this will be a legacy of this year’s agriculture budget bill,” said Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center). She sponsors HF2278/SF1955* with Sen. Aric Putnam (DFL-St. Cloud). “I’m also excited to see we’re making historic investments in emerging farmers and strong investments in helping farmers take care of the land. I think we have a strong, well-rounded budget that encapsulates a growing agricultural community.”

Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said the agreement represents a big increase in funding for the agency and support programs for farmers will help them sleep better at night.

Some new money provisions for the next biennium would include:

  • $7 million to maintain current services;
  • $4 million to support youth and urban agriculture programs;
  • $4 million to support milk producers through the Dairy Assistance Investment and Relief Initiative;
  • $2 million for meat processing grants;
  • $1.25 million for soil health equipment grants;
  • an $800,000 transfer to the pollinator research account; and
  • $90,000 for grants to prevent wolf/livestock conflicts by methods such as fencing, lights and alarms.  

[MORE: View the agreement change items spreadsheet]

Not included in the final bill are House provisions that would regulate pesticide-treated seeds. Several other contentious House proposals are included – though modified ­– in the final bill.  

The Board of Animal Health would, per an amendment, increase by one person, and its membership makeup would be altered to three livestock producers, a member of a federally recognized tribe who is experienced in animal husbandry, and three practicing veterinarians, one of whom specializes in companion animals. Currently, four livestock producers and two veterinarians comprise the six-person board.

A fertilizer inspection fee would be set by the Agriculture Department rather than the Legislature with a minimum of 39 cents and maximum of 70 cents per ton.

Use of PFAS substances in fertilizer would be phased out. Fertilizers with intentionally added perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances would be prohibited after Jan. 1, 2032 per an amendment adopted Saturday as part of the conference committee’s agreement. 

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