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House passes agriculture finance, policy agreement with bipartisan support

Additional support for emerging farmers, provisions for farmer safety surrounding PFAS and meaningful protection for grain sellers are among the highlights of the commerce committee report on the agriculture finance and policy bill.  

“This is a good, well-rounded agriculture and broadband bill,” said Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center). She sponsors HF2278/SF1955* with Sen. Aric Putnam (DFL-St. Cloud).  

Following Thursday’s 85-44 vote, the bill is on its way to the governor. The Senate signed off on it 49-16 earlier in the day.

It includes a $148 million increase in General Fund spending in the next biennium, of which $100 million would go to expanding broadband.

A key provision in the bill is the creation of grain indemnity fund, which can compensate farmers should an elevator go bust. The bill includes $10 million to get the fund off the ground.

[MORE: Download the spreadsheet, Read about the agreement]

Funding for four new positions at the Department of Agriculture are included:

  • a climate coordinator to help Minnesota farmers tap into federal resources;
  • a full-time emerging farmer coordinator;
  • a new staff member in the international trade office; and
  • a person to study and define a path forward on the use of PFAS chemicals in agriculture.

Other new spending appropriations include:

  • $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; and
  • $1.25 million for soil health equipment grants.

“When we support farmers, we are investing in our rural communities and ensuring our state has a strong agricultural economy and sustainable food supply for generations to come,” Rep. Kristi Pursell (DFL-Northfield) said in a statement. “Whether it’s increasing support to first-generation and emerging farmers, promoting better soil and water practices, or passing the largest-ever investment in rural broadband, this agriculture bill will help Minnesotans all across our state.”

Though offering support and a yes vote, Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) said there should have been more conversation in the conference committee, which only met twice.

“I think we’re doing committee work on the floor here,” Anderson said during floor debate on data privacy regarding fertilizers that may contain PFAS substances.  

Among the more controversial provisions in the bill are ones that would:

  • increase the size of the Board of Animal Health by adding a veterinarian who specializes in companion animals;
  • allowing the Department of Agriculture to increase fertilizer inspection fees; and
  • phasing out the use of fertilizers with PFAS substances.

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