ST. PAUL – Legislation that will address Minnesota's agriculture, environment and natural resources priorities for the next two years has been approved by the Minnesota House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support by a vote of 78-47.
"This is a responsible bill that meets the needs of our state agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources," said State Representative Denny McNamara (R-Hastings), who chairs the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee. "The bill also includes a number of policy reforms and initiatives that have bipartisan support."
After the Senate changed the agreed-upon language of the legislation, the House moved to restore the original language.
“By passing this legislation, we are honoring the commitment we made to Minnesotans with the four legislative leaders and the governor. Now the Senate has the opportunity to do the right thing and send this bill to the governor,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown).
"When this bill becomes law, Minnesota will be able to continue to protect and preserve its food supply, make needed investments in research, and have the funds necessary to respond to the avian flu outbreak." said State Representative Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), chair of the Minnesota House Agriculture Finance Committee.
The legislation funds state agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, the Agriculture Utilization Research Institute, the Board of Animal Health, Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Minnesota Zoo, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Metropolitan Council – Regional Parks, Minnesota Conservation Corps, Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR), and the Science Museum of Minnesota for the 2016-17 budget cycle.
Highlights of the omnibus agriculture, environment and natural resources finance bill include:
• Providing nearly $23 million to state agencies in order to better prevent and respond to the avian influenza outbreak that has devastated Minnesota turkey flocks
• Creating a new grant program for cities with a population of less than 45,000 in Greater Minnesota to incentivize single stream and other recycling programs.
• Increasing funding for Soil and Water Conservation districts to fund more "on the ground" projects.
• Providing much-needed reforms to the Wetland Conservation Act, which were developed over the past year and are a consensus of interested parties (such as groups representing farmers and environmentalists).
• Approving an initiative that builds on the successful example of counties and landowners that have used a voluntary and locally based process to install buffers to enhance water and soil protection.
• Repealing the current ‘Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Trailer Sticker/Decal’ law, and replacing it with a requirement that the boat owner sign an affirmation stating they will abide by AIS laws.