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Agriculture funding bill takes another step

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 03/28/2013 8:59 PM

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ST. PAUL — The House Agriculture Policy Committee voted unanimously on March 13 to send the agriculture funding bill on to the agriculture, environment and natural resources finance committee.

A week earlier, the bill failed to advance after a series of amendments and discussion about the jurisdiction of the policy committee.

In the March 13 hearing, discussion revolved around the Board of Animal Health funding, with the explanation that the mistake would be fixed in a later version of the bill. The mistake targets money toward bovine TB, which has been eradicated in the state. Instead, the money, which is not in addition to the board's funding, will be spent to address other animal health priorities.

Rep. Tim Faust of Mora offered an amendment regarding AGRI fund money that was ruled out of order. Faust explained he has a concern about writing a blank check to the commissioner of agriculture to spend the dollars.

Chairwoman Jeanne Poppe of Austin told him the amendment would be ruled out of order. He told her the consistency was appreciated because she had ruled members from both parties out of order when they offered amendments to do with finance.

Greta Gauthier, lobbyist from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, said that the department followed the law as written when it put together the recommendations for spending AGRI fund money. The language says the commissioner shall determine, Gauthier said, and their recommendation follows the guidance that the Legislature put in statue for spending the money that was formerly targeted to ethanol payments.

Poppe also brought forward an amendment for discussion. It addresses the scope of what the department can spend AGRI dollars on. The amendment relates to agricultural education and youth development, but she said she's not sure that fits why the AGRI fund was developed. The fund was developed for economic development, growing jobs and growing industry in agriculture.

She said her amendment was out of order because it wasn't for the bill before them.

The committee also adopted the agriculture policy bill at that hearing and sent it to the government operations committee.