ST. PAUL – The Minnesota House and Senate both approved an omnibus agriculture and broadband finance package for the next two-year budget cycle on Thursday, sending it to the governor for enactment.
Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, is the ranking House Republican on agriculture. He served on a conference committee which modified or eliminated several major ag-related concerns from the House’s language in preparing the bill (S.F. 1955) for final passage.
“This bill is better than when it left the House,” Anderson said. “Agriculture is an economic powerhouse in Minnesota and the last thing we should do is pass laws that negatively impact the ability of farmers to do their jobs. Republicans worked to eliminate a number of damaging provisions the original House Democrat bill included, and the conference committee addressed a number of those concerns with improved final language.”
Improvements to the bill Anderson cited include: Board of Animal Health language was modified to add only one member – a veterinarian with small animal experience – instead of the original five new members that would have watered down the board. Language pertaining to treated seed, which Anderson said was troubling, also was eliminated.
Anderson said he is pleased to see the bill includes language to establish a grain indemnity fund with this bill. The goal, he said, is to protect farmers in the event they deliver grain to an elevator which files for bankruptcy before the farmer is paid. The original bill appropriated $5 million to establish the fund. Anderson offered an amendment to the bill that would have upped the state’s initial contribution to $10 million. The House majority had previously balked at that proposal but accepted it for final passage.
“It’s good we made progress with the grain indemnity fund,” Anderson said. “The goal is to get the fund up to $15 million and a larger initial state contribution will help us get there. Overall, while this is not a perfect bill, it is good to see improvements were made to sand off some of the partisan edges and make it worthy of support.”
In total, the bill provides $164 million to the Department of Agriculture, a $39 million increase. It also appropriates $125.7 million to the Office of Broadband, an increase of $100 million.
The bill passed the Senate 49-16 and then gained 85-44 approval in the House.