March 30, 2022
Farmers have been waiting for Minnesota lawmakers to pass a drought relief package.
Some movement finally happened March 22, when the state Senate Finance Committee approved SF 3479, which calls for $5.5 million to support livestock farmers and $1.5 million for livestock farmers and specialty crops producers. It also includes funding for the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to purchase equipment used in animal disease testing, as well as funding for the agricultural emergency account, and allows for the use of funds to purchase avian influenza testing supplies. An additional $1.5 million would be appropriated to the Rural Finance Authority for disaster recovery loans.
On March 10, the state House passed HF 3420, which expands eligibility for the RFA Disaster Recovery Loan Program, appropriates money for rapid response grants to eligible farmers, and provides additional funding for drought-relief loans.
Farm organizations have been calling for drought relief since the session began Jan. 31.
Here’s a compilation of proposed rural and ag bills from various ag and news sources:
HF 4057. Meat cutting and butchery training grant funding provided and money appropriated. The bill would appropriate $1 million to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for education grants to secondary M schools with career and technical education programs that provide instruction on meat cutting and butchery. Schools would receive up to $100,000, 10% of which could go to training faculty. A companion bill is in the state Senate, SF 3481, and it awaits action by the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee.
HF 3947. The bill would require a person applying to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for a feedlot permit to submit proof of financial assurance (i.e., a bond, irrevocable letter of credit, etc.) sufficient to pay for the feedlot closure requirements under MPCA’s Chapter 7020 feedlot rules. It would also require counties and MPCA to develop a list of abandoned or closed feedlots. The bill appropriates money to MPCA for its duties under this act, and for grants to counties and the Minnesota Association of County Feedlot Officers.
HF 3783. This bill modifies the 2021 omnibus law to increase the appropriation for grants to local communities to increase the number of quality child care providers by $5 million in fiscal year 2023, for a total of $10 million for these grants over the two-year period. It authorizes the Minnesota Initiative Foundations to make subgrants to partner organizations.
HF4143. This bill defines monopoly power as a seller’s power to control prices, control market supply or exclude or suppress competition. It also defines monopsony power as a buyer’s power to control prices, to control market demand, or exclude or suppress competition for input.
HF 4328. Known as the Liquid Fuel Modernization Act, this bill would provide the resources needed for infrastructure improvements, enabling every fuel retailer in Minnesota to offer higher ethanol blends within 10 years. It would reimburse fuel retailers that replace equipment compatible with higher-ethanol blends. Minnesota has an aging fueling infrastructure, and nearly 80% of underground storage tanks are more than 20 years old. Funding for the program, which would be administered by the state Department of Commerce, would come from a new 1.3-cent-per-gallon fee on petroleum products. The goal would be to reimburse $52 million annually for equipment replacements at fuel retailers.
Timetable for committee deadlines
March 25 marked the first committee deadline of the 2022 session. The first deadline means that a bill must be acted favorably upon in the chamber in which it originated. The second deadline, by which a bill or companion bill must be acted upon in the other chamber, is Friday (April 1). The third deadline is April 8, and it requires committees to act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills. These deadlines do not apply to House committees on Capital Investment, Ways and Means, Taxes, or Rules and Legislative Administration; nor to the Senate committees on Capital Investment, Finance, Taxes, or Rules and Administration, which means the omnibus tax bill will not be ready until closer to the end of session.
It has been reported that the House Agriculture Committee plans to summarize an omnibus bill April 4 in a virtual hearing, and then consider amendments and finalize the bill on April 7, before sending the bill to the Ways & Means Committee for final committee action. After it reaches the Ways & Means Committee, it will be sent to the House floor. The House Ag Committee omnibus bill reportedly will contain more than $30 million in new spending for proposals — a grain indemnity fund, noxious weed program, soil health financial assistance program, IT modernization, hunger assistance programming for Second Harvest Heartland, meat processing hiring incentives and other programs.
The Senate Agriculture Committee reportedly planned to unveil its omnibus agriculture policy and budget bill this week, and follow up with amendments next week. It reportedly will offer an omnibus bill that has no new supplemental spending.
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