PASSED AND SIGNED INTO LAW
Rural Finance Authority bonds – HF 4425
The bonding bill appropriated $35 million in User Financed Bonds for the Rural Finance Authority. The money will be used to lower interest rates on loans issued to qualifying farmers. While the Rural Finance Authority (RFA) has the ability to issue loans directly to farmers, it usually partners with private lenders. The RFA purchases a portion of the loan from the lender and charges a lower interest rate than the market would allow. This results in a blended rate that is lower than what is typically available in the private market.
DID NOT PASS
Republican lawmakers introduced and moved a bill that requires the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to receive legislative approval before implementing a new proposal to regulate the application of nitrate fertilizer. The committees in the House and Senate tasked with agriculture policy oversight implemented a rarely used statute that would delay the new rule from taking effect. After the committees took this step, Governor Dayton instructed the commissioner of agriculture to move forward with the rule, arguing that the statute used to delay the rule is unconstitutional.
AFREC fee extension – SF 3563
The Legislature did not pass a bill to extend the Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education fee until 2029. The Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council (AFREC) administers grants financed by a 40-cent fee on fertilizer sales. AFREC is a farmer-led initiative composed of 12 agricultural stakeholders. MDA defines the mission of AFREC to fund research and education on agricultural fertility that is environmentally and economically sound.
Supplemental budget – SF 3536
The budget appropriated no new general fund revenue for agriculture expenditures. Lawmakers repurposed $200,000 in FY 2019 general fund spending to improve statewide mental health counseling support for farm families and business operators. According to recent data, suicide rates are much higher for farmers in comparison to the average worker. A study cited by MPR this year found that American farmers in the early 1990s to 2010 had a suicide rate three to five times higher than other occupations.
Omnibus policy bill – HF 4133
After lawmakers withdrew the nitrate provision in the omnibus supplemental bill at the request of Governor Dayton, legislators and agricultural stakeholders shifted their focus and attempted to amend the soil loss statute that was passed as part of the buffer law. The soil loss law was intended to help settle disputes between land owners without the need for court intervention. Under current law, the Soil and Water Resources Board is responsible for drafting the soil loss rules. It was the preference of some within the agriculture community, that the rules be developed by each county.