Several bills were heard this week that are vital to agriculture. The bills range from agriculture safety to finance and business counseling. Some of the bills heard in the agriculture committees this week include:
Agricultural Utilization Research Institute: Two proposals were heard to fund the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) and providing financing to update and expand their facilities. AURI was developed to expand the use of agricultural commodities into value added products in Minnesota. It does this through agricultural research, development, and business assistance. (SF 497/SF 683)
Tractor Rollover Protections: The Minnesota Legislature established the rollover retrofit program through the Department of Agriculture in 2016 to make tractor safety equipment affordable. Equipment like roll bars and seat belts are 99% effective in preventing death and serious injury in the event of a rollover.
One rollover protection proposal would remove the existing school match requirement, which would save schools money because they would no longer be responsible for the cost of purchasing the safety equipment. Another proposal would provide funding for the tractor rollover program so it could continue. (SF 357/SF 493)
Wolf and Elk Depredation: This proposal would reimburse owners of livestock who had their animals destroyed or crippled by wolves. The bill would also reimburse farmers for crop or fence damage caused by elk. The bill also gives the commissioner flexibility to transfer funds between the two programs to meet any unforeseen need. (SF 845)
Farm Advocates: This proposal would expand the farm advocates program by appropriating $80,000 in 2017 and 2018. The program has provided assistance since 1984 to farmers who have been impacted by natural disasters or have faced financial problems. (SF 525)