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Legislature praised for biodiesel

Other than that, not much happened

By Janet Kubat Willette

jkubat@agrinews.com

Not much happened to or for agriculture in the 2002 legislative session.

And most say that's a good thing.

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"Overall, agriculture really didn't get the cuts other departments did …; there were some cuts," said Rep. Bill Kuisle, R-Rochester.

The proposed ban on the therapeutic feeding of antibiotics to livestock failed, a proposed two cent cut to the ethanol producer payment was restored and a one cent reduction was delayed.

The Methane Digester Loan Program was changed and the ban on construction of new open-air swine manure basins was extended to June 30, 2007.

But biodiesel was hailed as the agriculture issue of the session.

Rural lawmakers, farm groups and ag department officials praised the legislation's passage.

"Undoubtedly, biodiesel was the best thing we did for agriculture this year," Kuisle said.

Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation president Al Christopherson agreed.

"Passage of this legislation is a significant step to leading our nation to greater energy independence and reducing our dependence on foreign sources of crude oil," Christopherson said.

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He called the legislation a model for other states as the nation explores ways to meet future energy needs.

A measure was passed requiring state agencies to purchase renewable fuels, when available, and cars capable of operating on these fuels.

Those measures expand market opportunities for Minnesota-grown fuels, said Jim Boerboom, Minnesota Department of Agriculture assistant commissioner. Renewable fuels are good for rural economic development and the environment, he said. Although agriculture didn't face too many cuts from the Legislature, Gov. Jesse Ventura vetoed several projects of rural significance.

The Lazarus Creek Flood Mitigation project was vetoed for a second year and ReInvest in Minnesota funding was zeroed-out.

A $1 million request from the Olivia Ag Innovation Center was cut as was nearly half the money targeted for research and outreach centers.

"I think it's pretty clear he was trying to get back at the Legislature for not giving him everything he wanted," said Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar. "What's unfortunate is that these projects were worthwhile and necessary."

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