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HOUSE APPROVES ENVIRONMENT, NATURAL RESOURCES & AG BUDGET


Tue, May 21st, 2013
Posted in All State of Minnesota

ST. PAUL, MN — Lawmakers in the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the conference committee report on the Omnibus Environment, Natural Resources, & Agriculture finance bill this evening by a vote of 71 to 60. The bill takes serious steps to address shrinking water supplies throughout Minnesota without raising water fees.



Pending a vote in the Minnesota Senate, the bill is set to be signed into law by Governor Dayton.



The budget bill provides significant support for farmers and Minnesota’s ag-economy, equips the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with new resources and tools to address shrinking water supplies without raising water fees, and takes serious steps to protect Minnesota’s economy from the spread of invasive species like Asian Carp.



Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL—Austin), chair of the Agriculture Policy Committee, says the legislation takes meaningful action to improve rural communities’ economic vitality.



“This bill is a winner for communities in rural Minnesota,” said Rep. Poppe. “It gives us the tools to address shrinking water supplies without raising water fees, which is a big deal for farmers, ranchers, livestock producers, and agri-businesses that depend on reliable supplies of water. This bill recognizes the need to solve that problem before it’s too late.”



Investments in Minnesota’s Agriculture Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) fund included in the bill are designed to create economic growth in rural communities. Specifically, the AGRI fund investments will expand the Farm-to-School program to increase the amount of local produce in local schools, provide state grants for the start up, transition, and expansion of family farm livestock operations, assist with the start-up of any farm, fund research on conventional and cover crops, and explore development of renewable forms of energy. It also appropriates $1 million each year for county agriculture society fair grants in the next biennium.



The budget bill also includes a provision authored by Rep. Poppe that adopts the NextGen Board’s recommendations regarding Minnesota’s biofuel policies.



Right now, state law requires all gasoline sold in Minnesota to be “E10,” which is a blend of 10 percent ethanol derived from corn and 90 percent gasoline. The NextGen Board proposal allows for other biofuels to enter the market by allowing fuel blenders to use ethanol or other biofuels to satisfy the 10 percent requirement. Instead of relying solely on traditional ethanol produced from corn, this proposal expands the law from requiring only ethanol to a law that requires biofuels generally.



“In order to continue to be industry leaders, we need to support the growth of emerging biofuels, while protecting the investments we have made in the ethanol industry,” said Rep. Poppe. “This will encourage more companies to consider making investments in Minnesota, building on the strong ethanol foundation already in place and driving economic growth and jobs for middle class families.”



The bill aims to grow the agriculture industry’s workforce by extending the sunset date for the Minnesota Agriculture Leadership Council (MAELC) to June 30, 2018. MAELC improves agricultural education for all ages by awarding grants for high school agriculture programs and scholarships for college students enrolled in agriculture programs.



In order to address the ongoing population decline among bees and other pollinators, the bill provides funding for pollinator habitat restoration. Minnesota’s agriculture industry relies on insects to pollinate crops. The modest appropriation helps solve a serious problem that could have dire consequences for Minnesota’s farmers and our economy overall if left unaddressed.



The bill also takes responsible steps to prevent the spread of invasive species like Asian Carp to protect Minnesota’s multi-billion dollar natural resource and outdoor recreation industries.



Lastly, the bill appropriates an additional $450,000 for food inspections to keep Minnesota’s food supply healthy and protect our workforce from food-borne illnesses.



Rep. Poppe encourages her constituents to contact her with any questions or comments. She can be reached by phone at (651) 296-4193, by email at rep.jeanne.poppe@house.mn, or by postal mail at 487 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.

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