Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
By Dave Frederickson
While unresolved budget battles have dominated the 2011 legislative session, Governor Mark Dayton and Minnesota legislators recently agreed on a biennial funding package for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Board of Animal Health (BAH), the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) and other agriculture-related activities.
Historically, agriculture budget discussions tend to be less divisive and partisan than discussions over other budget areas. I want to thank House Agriculture Committee Chair Rod Hamilton, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Doug Magnus and the other members of their committees for upholding that tradition of cooperation. I have known Representative Hamilton and Senator Magnus for years, and I appreciate the way they worked with us to come up with a budget bill that we all could live with.
I also want to thank Governor Dayton for signing the budget bill even as he continues to engage in difficult negotiations over other budget issues. As the Governor noted after signing the bill, perhaps this legislation can serve as a model for how leaders can work together and compromise to find a solution that works for us all.
As expected, the budget bill features significant spending reductions for MDA and other areas of the ag budget. However, even in our time of financial constraint, this legislation offers important benefits for Minnesota:
* New retail food inspectors will be hired and trained, increasing the frequency of inspections and helping ensure a safe food supply in Minnesota;
*The state's anhydrous ammonia inspection and compliance activities will increase. This will make the storage and use of this fertilizer safer, thus protecting farmers, fertilizer applicators and the rural communities where storage tanks are located;
* Agriculture literacy will be improved through the development and dissemination of new curricula that incorporate agriculture into core subject areas for grades K-12; and
* New research and development will enhance the state's biofuels industry, stepping up Minnesota's participation in the alternative energy economy. Gas prices rising to near $4 per gallon this month underscore the importance of breaking our addiction to foreign fossil fuels.
This agreement is good news for Minnesota's farmers and ranchers, and for our state as a whole. The agreement is also an encouraging reminder that despite vigorous disagreements elsewhere in public life, leaders from across the political spectrum understand the vital role agriculture plays in supporting Minnesota's economy and quality of life. And that makes sense. After all, regardless of our political convictions, we all need to eat.