“It is now the law of the land”: Gov. Walz signs Ag Finance Bill

With Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) farmer leaders looking on, Gov. Tim Walz again put his signature on the Omnibus Agriculture Finance Bill in a signing ceremony Tuesday in St. Paul. Gov. Walz signed the bill in late May, but this time he was surrounded by legislators and representatives from Minnesota agriculture.

“Thank you for a bipartisan product,” Walz told surrounding legislators and advocacy groups.”The ability to feed, fuel and clothe the world and innovate is something Minnesotans are incredibly proud of.”

MSGA Vice President Jamie Beyer, director Mike Skaug and Executive Director Joe Smentek all attended the ceremony.

MSGA VP Jamie Beyer shook hands with Gov. Tim Walz moments prior to the governor signing the Ag Finance Bill Tuesday in St. Paul.

During a special session in May, the Omnibus Agriculture Finance Bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin) and Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), was passed 66-0 by the Senate and 114-14 by the House.

The bill would provide $287.85 million from the General Fund for the Department of Agriculture, Board of Animal Health, Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, Housing Finance Agency and Office of Broadband Development. That represents an increase of $59.51 million over base. Of the boost, $40 million would be earmarked for broadband, $15 million for housing and $4.51 million for agriculture purposes. The total appropriations for the Department of Agriculture are $4.5 million above base funding.

Provisions of interest included in the compromise include:

  • $5.0 million funding for soybean innovation campus and research (AGRI);
  • $5.0 million in funding assistance to dairy farmers who enroll for five years of marketing coverage under the current federal farm bill (AGRI);
  • $1.3 million for mental health counseling and advocates;
  • $1.0 million noxious weed program (LCCMR)
  • $40 million for rural broadband;
  • $900,00 livestock emergency and preparedness;
  • $500,000 Critical Core Capacity for Plant Pathogens and Pests program;
  • extends AFREC for five years;
  • $900,000 for administration and staffing of the noxious weed program;
  • clarifying pasture and feedlot rules allowing “sacrificial lands” to be used for greater concentrations of animals without a feedlot permit for up to 90 days in response to adverse conditions;

Note: Not contained in the bill was a House provision that would have allowed the commissioner of agriculture to delegate pesticide regulation authority to cities of the first class

“I’m incredibly proud to sign this,” Gov. Walz said.

Beyer traveled from Wheaton to attend the ceremony and said she was thrilled to see many of MSGA’s legislative priorities heading into 2019 come to fruition.

“We checked nearly all of our ‘wants’ and we appreciate the trust and support from legislators from both parties,” she said. “We have a lot of accomplishments to be proud of for our growers.”

Skaug says he was excited to witness funding for the Soy Innovation Campus become a reality.

“It’s such a great idea, and to see legislators and the governor get on board was a thrill,” said Skaug, who farms in Polk County.

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