Current legislation is a good starting point

Published 9:30 am Saturday, April 6, 2019

As chair of the MN House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division, my primary role is to develop a finance bill for the next two years. This generally means hearing numerous individual bills and working with committee members from both sides of the aisle to build a comprehensive (omnibus) bill that will eventually earn the support of the majority of committee members. Beyond the committee, there are additional stops for the bill as it is heard in the Ways and Means committee next, and then on to the House floor. Ways and Means is our checks and balances committee which determines that we have met the fiscal limitations for the spending in the bill.

Jeanne Poppe

As it fits into the entire state budget being crafted by the Minnesota House, the Ag and Food Finance and Policy division is one of the smallest pieces of the budget pie. Our House target this year was a much-appreciated biennial increase of $7.6 million over the base budget.

The committee also is responsible for creating an Agriculture policy bill. That bill brings together policy initiatives that will allow the MN Department of Ag to work better and assist farmers and growers as efficiently and effectively as possible. Our policy bill is ready for a floor vote, which is anticipated either next week or shortly after we come back from our Spring/Easter break. The bulk of our committee work, with testifiers, presentations, and debates, has culminated in these two bills.

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The spectrum of agriculture and food investments covered in this budget bill are as varied as the industry in Minnesota. Although traditional agriculture (commonly associated crops and livestock) is what many of us envision, we also consider new and emerging types of agriculture and models for growth. Many of our farmers have diversified operations, so they are interested in many aspects of our bill. HF 2200, as amended, invests in rural mental health for our farming communities and provides funding for more meat inspectors. We spent funds on outreach and marketing to farmers and producers, while also providing more opportunities for farm-to-school programs and farm to food shelves. We opened doors to investing in new technologies and crops like hemp.

Article 2 of the bill focused on Farmed Cervidae. Due to the increased concern regarding Chronic Wasting Disease, language regarding this industry is a part of this bill. Cervidae farmers and deer hunters all have an interest in trying to get something done this session.

The finance bill marks the end of our committee work for this year’s legislative session. While work on this budget will continue for the remaining two months, time will mostly be filled with debating legislation on the House floor and bringing bills into conference with our Senate colleagues. The bill we approved in committee could look very different by the end of session, but the legislation we have now is a great starting point to bring to the table for negotiations.