MN Senate passes Agriculture Omnibus Bill

ST. PAUL, MN(Quinn Gorham)
Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 3:07 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL, MN (GRAY) -- Thursday, the Minnesota Senate passed its first omnibus bill of the legislative session, the Agriculture budget omnibus bill, with a vote of 58-7.

“Everything that’s in this bill, is something that we asked farmers about. So farmers have been involved at every step of this process of figuring out how to put this bill together,” said Senator Aric Putnam (D - St. Cloud), author of the bill and chair of the Agriculture committee, “This has been a deeply bipartisan very collaborative process, as evidenced by the functional unanimous vote throughout the committees.”

The bill, much like other omnibus bills, contains a large amount of legislation in a single vote.

Putnam named a few highlights, including a new fund to help grain farmers recover in the case of disaster.

“We’ve set up the Grain Indemnity Fund, which is a resource to make farmers whole if an elevator goes down. It’s a bit like a kind of insurance,” he said.

According to Putnam, elevator failures can cripple a smaller farmer’s ability to make a profit, so those protections are a big deal.

Republicans supported the idea of the fund but wanted to make it optional.

“It’s essentially a sales tax on their grain they’re selling and then they have to wait months, even up to a year, to get it back,” said Senator Torrey Westrom (R - Alexandria).

Though an amendment was introduced to make the fund optional, it was not adopted.

Outside of the grain indemnity fund, the state is also investing in a dairy margin guarantee program to help smaller farms stay afloat in an increasingly competitive market.

They also set aside $100M over the course of the biennium to expand access to rural broadband.

“There are about 291,000 households in the state of Minnesota, with inadequate or nonexistent broadband access,” said Putnam.

Broadband access was something Republicans also got behind.

“I’m glad to see these 100 million dollars continued, something the Republicans have done for the past several years. [It’ll help] to finish the job of getting high-speed internet to the unserved areas in rural Minnesota,” Westrom said.

The House still needs to vote on its version of the bill, and then the two chambers will meet to determine which iteration makes it to Governor Walz’s desk.