Rotunda Ramblings: Speak Up Now On Importance of Ag Research Bill

Within the next two weeks, decisions will be made by the House majority caucus, currently the Republican Party, and the Senate majority caucus, currently the Democrat Party, as to how much funding each of the funding committees will be allowed to spend. Those budget ceilings are called targets.

These decisions are made by the majority caucus’s leadership in each body.

The decisions are made on perceived need, but are in part political decisions. The final funding decisions are made by the leadership of each of the majority caucus. The leadership can be heavily influenced by the members of their respective caucus.

So, now is the time to contact your own Senator and House member and ask the following two things of them:

  1. House members to support HF779, Senate members to support SF820
  2. Ask them to talk to their leadership about providing targets high enough to accommodate the almost $40 million of spending in the bill

Ag Research Bill Passes First of Many Hurdles

On Wednesday, the House Ag Policy committee met for approximately an hour to discuss the farm coalition Ag Research bill, HF779. The bill was first amended by author Representative Rod Hamilton.

I, Jerry Schoenfeld, lobbyist on behalf of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, presented the arguments for the bill following an introduction by Rep. Hamilton. A discussion of the bill followed my presentation.

Of those who were present, most agreed on the merits of the bill, but several Democrats on the committee expressed concern that the board created in the bill was not diverse enough. The bill provides for a board comprised of:

  • Representatives from all commodity groups
  • the University of Minnesota Dean of the College of Agriculture
  • a representative of Minnesota State Colleges & Universities
  • the Commissioner of Agriculture
  • One representative each from Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, the Minnesota Forest Industries Association and the Agri-Growth Council.

The board would meet to prioritize $38.8 million dollars of appropriations for Ag Research, Extension, Agriculture Education including Farm Business Management and the Rapid Response efforts for plant and animal diseases.

After the discussion, the bill was referred to the Government Operations committee, which is the first of four or five committee stops in the House. The Senate companion bill, SF 820, is expected to be heard on March 4th.