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Ag funding bill receives widespread praise

By Janet Kubat Willette

jkubat@agrinews.com

ST. PAUL — The agriculture funding bill on Friday became the first omnibus finance bill signed by the governor this session.

"This bill includes key initiatives we proposed to help veterans, active military members and their families," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said in a press release. "It also focuses on renewable energy development and important programs to keep Minnesota agriculture growing."

The $170 million bill funds agriculture and veterans affairs for two years. It was written under the leadership of Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, and Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, who chair the ag and veteran’s committees in their respective chambers.

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The bill was crafted in a bipartisan manner and had broad bipartisan support, said Rep. Andy Welti, DFL-Plainview. Both Republicans and Democrats defended the conference committee report in debate on the floor, where it passed 130-1 on May 1. The House version passed 131-2 on April 17.

Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, praised the bill.

"It’s got to be a good bill because it passed unanimously twice," Dille said.

The Senate passed their version of the bill 65-0 on April 18 and the conference committee report 64-0 on May 1.

The most contentious issue to be ironed out in conference committee revolved around cellulosic ethanol producer payments. The payments weren’t included in the legislation, but there is a significant portion of funding devoted to renewable energy.

"This is an energy-heavy bill," Juhnke said. "This bill does some very good things to help coordinate renewable energy in this state into the future."

Read what others have to say about the bill next week.

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