After vetoing the first Republican agriculture bill, negotiations with Governor Dayton began in earnest. Governor Dayton and legislators settled on a general fund target of $4.97 million more than the $0 target that was included the original Republican bill. Additionally, the Governor was able to ensure Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Program autonomy was secured. He was also able to negotiate a bill that reflected the priorities of the agricultural community while protecting Minnesotans’ quality of life. (HF 1545)
Compromise language was adopted that would provide consistency to the agriculture community relative to pesticide labeling laws. However, the language provides the Department of Agriculture flexibility to establish new training requirements for pesticide applicators.
Pollinators Habitat and Research Account
Across the country, pollinators have been disappearing at alarming rates. Recognizing the importance of pollinators, Governor Dayton established a pollinator protection account to fund research and education in Minnesota. As a compromise with the legislature, a Pollinator Habitat and Research Account was established to research science-based best practices and the establishment of habitat beneficial to pollinators. The account was established with $500,000 in general fund resources.
Tractor Rollover Bars
In 2016, the Minnesota Legislature established the Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) Rebate Program at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to make tractor safety equipment more affordable for farmers and schools. This new legislation would appropriate $150,000 in general fund resources to completely pay for the upgrades for school owned tractors.
Metro State Grow-IT
$400,000 is appropriated to establish a Grow-IT Center at Metro State University. The money would refurbish and expand a greenhouse. The facility would be used for research, plant growth, and a demonstration area.
$400,000 is appropriated to continue to administer the industrial hemp program in Minnesota as well as establish a market for the product.
Noxious Weed Appropriation
Money appropriated in the bill will be used to address Palmer Amaranth and other invasive species detrimental to our state and our agriculture sector. Palmer Amaranth was initially discovered and confirmed in the state in September 2016. Palmer Amaranth is a weed that can grow six to eight feet tall and can produce 250,000 seeds. It is detrimental to corn, soybeans, and other crops. The weed can damage combines and other farm equipment because it has a woody stem. As a result of its hardiness, it can lower crop yields and increase the cost to farmers because of the application of herbicides.
Farmer Advocate Program
This proposal would expand the farm advocates program by appropriating $80,000 over the biennium. The money appropriated will be added to the base funding for this program. Per the Department of Agriculture, “Farm Advocates provides assistance for farmers who face crises caused by either a natural disaster or financial problems. The Farm Advocate Program has been supported by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture since 1984.”
Rural Finance Authority Modification
This bill increases the maximum amount of net worth farms may have and still be eligible for the programs under the Rural Finance Authority.
Waste Pesticide Fee
The bill provides for $125 fee on each non-agricultural pesticide product registered. A fee increase does not apply to agricultural waste pesticides. The money collected will be used to defray the costs for counties and other state partners to dispose of pesticides at collection sites.
Farmer Lender Mediation
A provision extended the expiration date for the farmer lender mediation statute. Additionally, it increases the loan amount for what could qualify for mediation and increases the living expenses a farmer could be granted under the program.
Rural Finance Authority
Early this session, the Legislature passed a bill that appropriated a little over $35 million for the Rural Finance Authority for user financed loans. The Authority can use the money for several loan programs under its purview. Before this bill’s passage, there was no money available because the 2012 appropriation was canceled by law. (HF 14)
Agriculture Bills that Did Not Become Law
VETOED: Agriculture Budget
After the 2016 elections, it was clear communities in rural Minnesota felt left behind as many areas were slow to see the post-recession economic growth that was experienced in the metropolitan area. As a result, many legislators thought there would be a renewed focus on rural Minnesota. However, House and Senate Republicans failed to invest new money in this area in their initial budget offer.
Instead, Republicans took millions of dollars from the Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Program to fund their priorities. AGRI investments are focused on livestock development, value added agriculture, education, research, and renewable energy in the agriculture sector. Beyond shifting money, the bill did not include important provisions for Governor Dayton, such as the Pollinator Protection Account, additional money so the agency can respond to the agriculture markets and Minnesota Farmers in a more expedited manner, and unacceptable provisions relative to the regulation of pesticide labeling. (SF 780)
Agriculture Nuisance Claims
Under Minnesota law, after two years, if certain conditions are met, an agricultural operation can no longer be considered a nuisance. Large facilities were exempt from this provision making them subject to a nuisance claim at any time. This proposal would extend the protection from nuisance liability to feedlots of all sizes. As a stand-alone bill, this proposal failed to clear the Senate Judiciary Committee on a voice vote. (SF 1015)
This proposal creates an incentive for shrimp production in Minnesota. The facility must begin production at a specific location by June 30, 2025, and may not begin production before July 1, 2019. The facility must produce at least 25,000 pounds of shrimp each quarter. An eligible producer can receive 69 cents per pound of shrimp produced for five years after production starts. Total payments may not exceed $1.25 million per quarter. While this provision was not included, the commissioner is authorized establish a new incentive program that could apply to shrimp production in the future. (SF 841)
Overtime for Agriculture Employees
Hourly agricultural employees in Minnesota must be paid overtime at the rate of time and a half the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 48 hours in a work week. Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, and most recently, California (September 2016 – phased in starting in 2019) have implemented overtime for agricultural workers.
This proposal would exempt temporary and seasonal agricultural workers from overtime. The proposal specifically names workers in the areas of perishable fruit, vegetables, and other horticultural employment that receive specific benefits. (SF 899)