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From soils to consumption

Published (5/25/2012)
By Sue Hegarty
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Minnesota now has a state soil. The designation of Lester as the state soil in the omnibus agriculture law coincides with the University of Minnesota’s 2013 celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the soil science program and the 40-year-old Minnesota Association of Professional Soil Scientists, according to Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), who sponsors the law with Sen. Doug Magnus (R-Slayton).

However, a large portion of the law will require new labeling of landscape and garden stock designed to help consumers choose hardy stock for Minnesota’s extreme growing conditions.

The law is effective Aug. 1, 2012, unless otherwise noted.

Planting guidelines

The new law defines “non-hardy” as a plant that cannot be expected to survive or produce flowers in certain growing zones and requires non-hardy nursery stock to be labeled as such. Sellers of nursery stock will also be required to keep balled and burlapped stock moist at all times.

Similarly, nursery stock collected from the wild must be labeled as such when sold, unless it has been grown in nursery rows at least two years; and vegetable and flower seed packets could list the number of seeds in the packet, instead of the net weight.

The Department of Agriculture’s nursery and plant inspection and enforcement powers will expand to include the department’s Wholesale Produce Dealer, Grain Buyer/Grain Storage, and Warehouse oversight responsibilities. The department can enter sites, inspect and sample products, issue commissioner’s orders, and pursue administrative and criminal penalties for failure to follow the Wholesale Produce Dealer, Grain Buyer/Grain Storage, or Warehouse laws.

Grains and livestock

A public grain warehouse operator’s license must currently be filed before the purchase or storage of grain may occur. The operator is required to post a bond, which under the new law, is determined according to annual average storage liability.

When a grain operator takes the product to the scale, an electronic scale ticket will no longer require a signature.

Farmers who grow feed for their own livestock use will no longer be charged an inspection fee on that portion. The provision is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012.

Dairy producers have until Aug. 1, 2017, to establish a Dairy Research, Teaching and Consumer Education Authority and to find a site for the design and development of a research, teaching and visitor facility. There is no state appropriation for the authority, which shall depend upon grants, gifts and donations for support.

Another livestock provision dealing with diseased animals will remove the required quarantine zone of up to three miles from the diseased animal.

Research, renewable energy, grants

The agricultural growth, research and innovation program, which was scheduled to sunset next year, is extended until June 30, 2015. Established to promote the advancement of the state’s agricultural and renewable energy industries, the authority will also be allowed to provide cost-share grants for the installation of biofuel blender pumps.

Regarding biodiesel fuel content mandates, the law exempts Coast Guard vessels from having to comply with minimum content requirements and exempts No. 1 diesel fuel from blending during the winter months due to gel problems at colder temperatures. The exemptions are effective April 29, 2012, and expire May 1, 2015.

A report is due the Legislature in 2013 and 2014 from the agriculture commissioner, in consultation with the commerce commissioner and Biodiesel Fuel Task Force, on whether to continue with any biodiesel fuel exceptions.

The law delays until Aug. 30, 2015, the current mandate that gasoline sold in Minnesota contain at least 20 percent ethanol.

The Rural Finance Authority will now be able to accept gifts, bequests, grants or interest in property for purposes pertaining to the authority, which aids farmers in securing loans to purchase acreages. In addition, the authority will establish a revolving loan account to offer loans up to $10,000 to minorities and women for the purpose of growing horticultural products or to raise chickens to bring to market. The program will receive funding through a transfer of the balance in the agroforestry account, which is abolished.

HF2398*/ SF2061/CH244

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