In my years of living and working in Minnesota, I’ve watched the state legislature as part of my roles in broadcasting and journalism, and it’s safe to say the polarization along political lines is as big a challenge as it’s ever been. But it’s good to see that agriculture can actually play a part in bringing the Minnesota Legislature to the table to get things done.
I offer as proof a conversation I had last week with Thom Peterson, the Director of Government Relations with the Minnesota Farmers Union. If something is happening that could potentially affect the state’s agriculture industry, he’s one of the people that’ll know about it before the public. The legislature recently passed an ag appropriations bill and Peterson said it’s a good example of how people at the capitol can still work together.
“The Ag Appropriations Bill for the House of Representatives passed last week 134-0,” he said, “which I think is kind of neat because, in this day and age when a lot of people are on opposite ends of the spectrum, a lot of times ag groups and legislators are still able to work together.”
The Chair of the Agriculture Finance Committee in the Minnesota Legislature is Republican Rod Hamilton from southwest Minnesota and Jeanne Poppe, a Freeborn County Democrat, is the DFL lead on the Ag Finance Committee. Peterson said she worked with Representative Hamilton to pass a good bill that both parties could agree on.
One of the interesting things about the Appropriations Bill is funding for more hemp production in the state. Peterson said production has grown in the last couple of years in different parts of the state. The law allowing production first passed in 2015, with seven farmers growing 35 acres of hemp for the first time in 50 years.
This year, he said more than 40 farmers are going to plant 2,000 acres of hemp in Minnesota. Folks may hear hemp and automatically associate it with marijuana. This is not the same thing as growing an illegal drug in a farm field. Hemp is potentially a very valuable product for the state’s farmers.
“I always say you’d have to smoke 40 acres of it to have a chance to get high,” Peterson said. “It has no THC value (the chemical that induces the “high”). Canada has been growing and selling it to us for years with no problems.”
Other things looming for agriculture is the potential for some property tax relief for farmers and gricultural landowners. Here’s the conversation I had last week with Thom: