Rep. Anderson: House passes drought relief bill
ST. PAUL – The Minnesota House on Thursday passed its version of drought relief for Minnesota farmers by a 101-33 vote.
Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, said the $10.1 million package (H.F. 3420) provides direct grants to farmers affected by last year's dry weather, along with additional funds for the Rural Finance Authority to issue loans to those who suffered crop and livestock losses. The final piece of the bill provides $100,000 in transportation assistance to farmers who purchased hay to supplement their feed supply.
"Although I'm glad we finally took action on the bill, it's not going help all those who saw their crops dry up," said Anderson, the lead Republican on the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee. "Large parts of Minnesota were determined to be at the highest levels of drought last year, and the amount of funding in this bill will not reach all those who were affected."
Interestingly, Anderson said, language that granted additional money to the DNR for replanting trees and helping local units of government with water conservation efforts was added to the ag relief bill, and it contained more funding than the ag bill did. Over $13 million was the total of the DNR portion of the bill, fully $3 million more than went to farmers.
"Although grateful for the funding received, I think we could have done better for our state's farmers," Anderson said. "Those with livestock, especially, were hurt as they had to make the painful decision of either trying to purchase expensive hay, or else selling off all or part of their herds because the drought greatly impacted their own hay fields and pastures."
Anderson said the Senate will be considering its own drought relief package this coming week.
"It's my hope that when this bill comes back from conference committee it will be much improved over the bill passed in the House," Anderson said.