Sen. Gene Dornink: Senate approves bipartisan legislation to support Minnesota’s veterans and military members

Published 5:25 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

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Friends and neighbors,

Supporting our Minnesota veterans and military members is not a partisan issue, and the Senate’s passage of the veterans bill is a perfect example of working across the aisle on behalf of Minnesotans. This legislation reaffirms our state’s commitment to our veterans and military members, and I am pleased to share that it passed with strong bipartisan support in the Senate.

A highlight of the bill is the creation of the Referral Bonus Program, which will provide bonuses for referrals that lead to enlistment in the Minnesota National Guard.

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This serves as an additional tool for recruitment and retention. To note, the bill does not require the program’s implementation, it simply authorizes the Minnesota National Guard to implement the program to assist in recruitment efforts.

A handful of other states have successfully launched similar state-funded programs.

The Senate veterans bill also allows the commissioner to plan for a new veterans cemetery in Bemidji. Our Minnesota veterans and their families should have the option to be laid to rest close to home, and this provision addresses the cemetery gap in Northwest Minnesota.

Currently, state cemeteries exist in Little Falls, Duluth, Preston, and Redwood Falls, with additional national cemeteries in Fort Snelling and Fargo. The goal of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is to provide 95% of veterans with a burial option within 75 miles of their home, and this legislation allows the process to move forward.

Our service members put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms. They do it because they care about our nation and making the world a better place, and it’s on all elected officials to honor their commitment and service. To all our military members and veterans, I say, thank you for your service and embodiment of patriotism.

So God Made a Farmer

This session, I once again have the privilege to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee. We recently held our final committee hearing, and I would like to thank everyone for their hard work this year. This committee is known for being one of the most bipartisan committees, where we work together to address the needs of Minnesotans.

Additionally, at almost every committee, we had the privilege to welcome testifiers from across the state. We need the knowledge and experience of those who work on the farms to help come up with ideas and solutions for the issues facing agriculture. I am very appreciative of a farmer who testified last week, and at one point, said “I am just a farmer.”

I really appreciate the humility of the farmer, but I grew up on a farm and I know how hard farmers work. I know the knowledge and experience it takes to be a caretaker of the land and livestock.

Our state’s agricultural industries lead the nation and this is because of the tireless work of farmers. Minnesota is No. 1 in sugar beet and turkey production. Our state also ranks No. 2 in pork and sweet corn; No. 3 in soybeans, dry beans and sunflower; and No. 4 in corn production. Minnesota’s agriculture industry has an annual economic impact of $112 billion, with $17 billion in annual agriculture sales.

Thank you to all those who are working in the agriculture sector, but a special tribute goes out to all those who are farmers.

At the end of last week’s Agriculture Committee hearing, I spoke with the farmer who shared the impactful testimony. I wanted to encourage him about how important his role as a caretaker of the land really is. I hope he understands just how valuable his work is, and I would like to do the same for all of you in District 23 and throughout the state.

I encourage you to listen to Paul Harvey’s speech, “So God Made a Farmer.” This is an amazing tribute to the vital role of farmers in our society.

“And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.”