DFL-led Legislature bolstered ag economyPublished 10:07am Friday, August 9, 2013
Column: Guest Column, by Jeanne Poppe
As thousands of Minnesotans gather for the 32nd annual Farmfest, I can think of no better time to write about the progress the DFL-led Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton made for Minnesota’s farmers during the 2013 legislative session.
Minnesota’s agriculture sector remains vital to our state’s economy. And contrary to the “doom and gloom” rhetoric from Republicans like my colleague Rep. Steve Drazkowski (Guest Column, July 31), Minnesota’s ag-economy is healthy and growing.
This year we worked to pass legislation to support farmers and continued progress for a growing ag economy throughout Minnesota. That is why Agri-News reported about our positive results, saying “the legislative session was good for agriculture.”
Here are a few of the areas we were able to make progress:
Increased funding for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture: Our budget made more than $1 million in new investments in the MDA, ensuring the integrity of our food supply, the health of our environment and the strength of our agricultural economy. This is in stark contrast to 2011 when the previous Legislature cut funding from the agriculture budget by over 14 percent.
Invested in Minnesota’s AGRI Fund: Thanks to new resources for the AGRI fund, Minnesota can expand the Farm-to-School program, provide 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 the development of renewable forms of energy. AGRI stands for Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation.
Extended farmer-lender mediation: We extended the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act to 2016, which requires banks or other creditors to offer mediation to a farmer before proceeding with foreclosure, repossession, cancellation of contract or collection of judgment. This is a simple-yet-important step that will bring peace of mind to hard-working individuals and families in rural Minnesota.
Improved Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” Law: We passed new legislation to help protect landowners’ livelihoods and make sure they are treated fairly by requiring utilities to pay relocation costs, compensation and to file challenges to claims within 60 days to prevent stalling.
Expanded biofuel industry: By adopting the NextGen board’s biofuel recommendations, Minnesota can support the growth of emerging biofuels while protecting the investments we have made in the ethanol industry. For example, E-10 laws mandating a 10 percent blend of ethanol in all gasoline have been expanded to require the use of biofuels generally.
I expect legislative Republicans like Rep. Drazkowski to keep pumping out their doom and gloom rhetoric, but the facts tell a different story. The DFL took serious steps to strengthen our ag economy now and keep it strong into the future.
While we made progress this session, there are still unique challenges that remain for farmers across our state. I encourage farmers to contact both me and your legislator with your questions, concerns and input about what the Legislature can do next session to keep our ag economy strong in Minnesota.
Rep. Jeanne Poppe is a member of the DFL Party who represents District 27B. She currently serves as chairwoman of the Agriculture Policy Committee.