Thank you to all that came to Minnesota Farm Bureau’s Day on the Hill!

On Tuesday, we saw the culmination of weeks of preparation as members of the MN Farm Bureau descended upon the state capitol for their Day on the Hill. They engaged in stories and discussions with lawmakers and advocated for policies that would benefit their farms. Their presence made a significant impact, drawing attention to the vital role of agriculture in the state's economy and community. Our members had the opportunity to witness the legislative process as bills were being heard in the House Agriculture committee. Our public policy specialist, Loren Dauer, had the chance to offer comments on a soil health bill.

This week, legislators aimed to finalize their bills before March 22 which is the deadline for bills that need to be heard in the committee of origin at least once in both legislative bodies. 

Bills of note this week:

HF 4989 (Pursell)/ SF XXXX (None) - Clean water, climate-start, and soil-healthy farming goals established; pilot program to provide financial incentives for farming practices in southeastern Minnesota created; fertilizer fee extended; data collection required; and money appropriated.
MFBF Position: Oppose as written. 
Bill Summary: This bill would establish a voluntary Karst Region Clean Water, Climate-Smart, and Soil-Healthy Farming Pilot Program to award per-acre payments to farmers who utilize eligible farming practices (i.e., cover cropping, no-till or strip-till, precision nutrient management, etc.) The bill would fund this pilot program by extending an expiring 40 cent/ton fee paid by fertilizer retailers (i.e., the Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council fee).
Impact on our Members and Agriculture: This bill would provide monetary incentives to farmers in southeast Minnesota that participate in the pilot program. Requirements for the program are very strict. AFREC would lose its funding source and the Department of Agriculture would into creating a carbon credit market for the state. 
Action Taken by MFBF: Discussed alternatives to the bill language with legislators. Verbal testimony was given by Loren Dauer.
Status: Laid over in House Agriculture Committee on 3/19/24. No Senate companion bill.

HF 3763 (Vang)/SF 3955 (Putnam) - Base funding for agricultural growth, research, and innovation program increased.
MFBF position: Support 
Bill Summary: This bill would increase the FY 2026-2027 base funding level for the Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation Program (AGRI) by $1.288 million per year. With this increase, the AGRI base for FY 2026-2027 would equal the FY 2024-2025 AGRI base of $17.582 million per year.
Impact on our Members and Agriculture: AGRI is an umbrella program established by the legislature in 2009 to promote the advancement of the state’s agricultural and renewable energy industries. Recent AGRI funding recipients include beginning farmers, livestock producers, dairy farmers, meat processors, schools that purchase local foods, gas stations that sell ethanol-gasoline blends, companies producing biochemicals, and county fairs.
Action taken by MFBFVerbal testimony was given by Loren Dauer.
Status: Laid over in Senate Agriculture Committee on 3/18/24. Passed House Agriculture Committee and re-referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on 3/5/24. 

HF 4698 (Pursell)/SF 4234 (Putnam) - Environmental impact statement for large animal projects requirement provision
MFBF Position: Oppose
Bill Summary: Any construction or expansion of a feedlot that has a capacity of 10,000 animal units or more requires the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS). 
Impact on our Members and Agriculture: Farmers that wish to grow their farm size would be burdened by a mandatory EIS at 10,000 animal units. An EIS requires a costly more in-depth review of the environmental impact of expanding a feedlot. This may seem high for a feedlot, but the concern is setting a precedent number of units for the future that could be lowered.
Action taken by MFBF: Coordinated with other agriculture groups. Verbal testimony (Minute 1:16) by Loren Dauer.
Status: Laid over in House Environment Committee on 3/20/24. Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/12/24.

HF 3411 (Fischer)/SF 3719 (Putnam) - Minnesota Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council (AFREC) extension and agricultural fertilizer research and education account fee creation.
MFBF Position: Support
Bill Summary: Extends the Minnesota Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council and fees associated with the council through 2035.
Impact on our Members and Agriculture: This is a farmer-led program that advances soil fertility research, technology development, and education.
Action taken by MFBF: Verbal testimony in the Agriculture Committees.
Status: Referred to the Senate Finance Committee on 3/18/24. Not heard in House.

HF XXXX (None)/SF 4225 (Putnam) - Omnibus agriculture policy bill.
MFBF position: Neutral
Bill Summary: The agriculture policy omnibus bill contains policy provisions that do not have a fiscal impact. The bill is broken into two sections. Article 1 is miscellaneous agricultural policy and Article 2 is pesticide control policy.
Impact on our Members and Agriculture: Most of the legislation in this bill is non-controversial and includes updated language from the Department of Agriculture.
Status: Passed to General Orders on 3/21/24. No House companion bill.