Peggy Bennett: The last week was positive for Minn. farmers

Published 9:00 am Sunday, April 9, 2017

Capitol Comments by Peggy Bennett

This past week in the House of Representatives was filled with omnibus bill hearings as we discussed our budget proposals for the next two years. I was proud to support bills in a number of areas and was especially encouraged with the bipartisan support for our agriculture legislation.

I’m proud to represent a community, like ours, that is so rich in farming history. I’ve enjoyed learning more about this industry as I speak with area farmers to hear their questions, ideas and concerns. Throughout my time in office, I have been fortunate to visit local farms, plant soybeans and even learn to drive a combine. The more I learn about this essential industry, the more I understand how the state can help our farming friends and neighbors who help put food on our tables.

Peggy Bennett

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One of the most pressing issues I hear from farmers relates to emergence of a harmful weed called palmer amaranth. This noxious weed is very adaptable and stubborn. It can be a real threat to our crops — like corn and soybeans — and even farm equipment. Our bill appropriates money for dealing with noxious weeds, like the palmer amaranth, as well as other invasive plants, pests and pathogens that can negatively impact our agriculture industry.

If passed into law, this bill would also give farmers a greater voice by creating farmer-led water quality councils. I hear so much about this issue from local farmers, I think it’s important to give them more of a voice on water quality issues and best practices (such as buffers), and to showcase how farmers are leading the way on being good stewards of our land and water.

Another agriculture issue I’ve heard lots about is pollinator protection. Our bill addresses this concern by dedicating money to a new Pollinator Habitat and Research Account, with annual funding going to the University of Minnesota research for protecting pollinators. Instead of wantonly throwing taxpayer dollars at a problem, our bill respects taxpayers and targets funding to provide more research and information on what habitat needs to be cultivated to turn the tide of decreasing pollinator populations.

Now that we passed our agriculture bills — as well as a number of others —we’ll begin the process of working with the Senate to iron out the differences between our bills. There’s still lots of work to tweak these bills and get them signed into law, but this week was a positive step forward for Minnesota farmers.

Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, is the District 27A representative.