Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

Energy, agriculture conferees find green agreement

Rep. Patty Acomb and Sen. Nick Frentz confer May 14 before convening the agriculture, commerce, energy, utilities, environment and climate conference committee. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)
Rep. Patty Acomb and Sen. Nick Frentz confer May 14 before convening the agriculture, commerce, energy, utilities, environment and climate conference committee. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)

Commerce went to cannabis, but energy and agriculture remained united.

Such was the result of a midweek re-ordering of conference committees that took place after a conference committee had already met for the first time to hash out differences in House and Senate energy, commerce and agriculture proposals.

On Friday afternoon, the final take on the energy and agriculture policy and supplemental budget conference committee report was unveiled, with $17 million in fiscal year 2025 energy appropriations designed to get the state closer to its goal of 100% clean energy by 2040, and $4.5 million for such agriculture-related programs as assisting communities in southeastern Minnesota affected by nitrate contamination in their drinking water.

They’re part of HF4975/SF4942*, a bill sponsored by Rep. Patty Acomb (DFL-Minnetonka) and Sen. Nick Frentz (DFL-North Mankato) that features both budget and policy provisions for energy and agriculture. The bill contains sections on appropriations from the General Fund and the Renewable Development Account, and was amended with policy provisions regarding permitting reform and a 10-year extension of the Solar Rewards program that Frentz identified as being a House priority in negotiations.

“It isn’t the bill I thought we would have at the end of session or that I had hoped for,” Acomb said. “But there has certainly been an evolution in where I started and where I am. And I feel very proud about this bill. I feel there’s a lot of really good things in it.”

Conference Committee SF 4942 - Omnibus Ag, Commerce & Energy supplemental appropriations - 05/17/24 (Video courtesy Minnesota Senate Media Services)

Climate and energy

The bulk of the bill’s spending comes from the Renewable Development Account. That state-administered account is designed to support renewable energy projects and is made up of money that Xcel Energy pays to the state for being able to store nuclear waste at its Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear power plants.

The conference committee report contains $15.4 million from the account in fiscal year 2025, the largest total being $6 million toward a geothermal energy system for Minneapolis’ Sabathani Community Center. The bill also appropriates $5 million for an anaerobic digester energy system for Ramsey and Washington counties that will be located in Louisville Township.

Allocations from that fund for fiscal year 2025 also include:

  • $1.5 million to promote a Solar Automated Permit Processing+ software program designed to help municipalities transition to solar energy;
  • $1.2 million for geothermal energy system planning grants;
  • $1 million for a suitability review of carbon pipelines;
  • $500,000 to Dakota County for energy efficiency projects; and
  • $250,000 for ultra-efficient vehicle development grants.

Among other climate and energy allocations would be:

  • $500,000 for a thermal energy network site suitability study;
  • $500,000 for the Solar APP+ program; and
  • $250,000 for grid enhancing technologies plans.

The bill would also allocate $422,000 to the Public Utilities Commission in fiscal year 2025 to facilitate permitting reform measures designed to streamline the process of getting renewable energy projects hooked up to the electrical grid.

[MORE: View the energy spreadsheet]

“The House brought to the table a robust voice for environmental review,” Frentz said. “I’m very pleased with the permitting article. Our hope is that we will permit more clean energy faster. … And we’re always talking about competing energy technologies, and [Acomb] is the voice of geothermal.”


One of the most pressing issues for the state this year is addressing a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency directive to address elevated nitrate levels in southeast Minnesota, where karst geology can make groundwater susceptible to contamination from nitrogen fertilizers

Both the Senate and House proposed ways to improve access to clean drinking water for approximately 9,000 families with private wells. The final report as amended would appropriate $2.8 million for the Department of Agriculture to provide nitrate treatment equipment, such as reverse osmosis equipment, giving priority to lower income households and those with infants or pregnant people.

Another $1.5 million would be appropriated to the department for a variety of purposes, such as soil health equipment grants in eight counties in southeast Minnesota, pollinator research, beginning farmer assistance grants, and grants to get equipment like lasers to keep possibly infected birds away from livestock.

[MORE: View the agriculture spreadsheet]

A point of contention between the House and Senate is how to use a 40-cent per ton fee on fertilizer purchases that currently funds the Agriculture Fertilizer Research and Education Council. The Senate sought to extend the council funding ­— due to sunset in fiscal year 2025 ­— another 10 years while the House had proposed shifting the approximately $1.3 million raised by the fertilizer fee to a new private well drinking water account.

The conference committee adopted an amendment that would extend the council through 2030 and add three new members including an expert in public health and another in water quality science.

It would also require the council develop “manure management and fertilizer best management practices for areas where surface water or groundwater are vulnerable to nitrate losses.”

One policy provision would clarify priority for beginning farmer equipment and infrastructure grants be given to those with limited access to land and markets. Another aims to prevent people from reselling soil health equipment purchased in part with state grants by having recipients certify they will keep the equipment for at least 10 years.

[MORE: View the same/similar provisions]

“So often in politics, we think what makes things happen is passion, but, in truth, it’s patience,” said Sen. Aric Putnam (DFL-St. Cloud), chair of the Senate Agriculture, Broadband and Rural Development Committee. “And this is a result of patience, grace and thoughtfulness. I’m very proud of this bill.”

— Session Daily writer Margaret Stevens contributed to this story.

Related Articles

Priority Dailies

House closes 2024 session in chaotic fashion, trading bonding for budget boosts
(House Photography file photo) It was a session of modest ambitions. After 2023 produced a record $72 billion in biennial funding, Minnesota’s legislative leaders were dampening expectations for anything ...
Ways and Means Committee OKs proposed $512 million supplemental budget on party-line vote
(House Photography file photo) Meeting more needs or fiscal irresponsibility is one way to sum up the differences among the two parties on a supplemental spending package a year after a $72 billion state budg...

Minnesota House on Twitter