Grain indemnity fund legislation passes ag committees

Grain indemnity fund legislation long-supported by Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) members has cleared the ag committees in both chambers.

“MFU members have advocated for a grain indemnity fund since 2015 when the Porter elevator failed and family farmers lost thousands of dollars,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “The bonding system in Minnesota doesn’t work, leaving farmers vulnerable to grain elevator collapses. There are more than a dozen states with indemnity funds, including North Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. We need to add this protection for Minnesota’s family farmers, and I thank Sen. Putnam, Rep. Cha and Rep. Anderson for their leadership on this legislation.”

This week marks the midpoint of the legislative session and here’s an update on some priorities MFU is working to advance:

  • The MinnesotaCare buy-in public option continues to advance through the committee process. Several members have testified in support of this legislation (HF96/SF49).
  • MFU is supporting legislation (HF17/SF168) that would stop price gouging of generic and off-brand prescription drugs and establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) with authority to lower drug costs by setting upper payment limits.
  • Bills expanding the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit have been approved by agriculture committees in both chambers with several MFU members testifying in support.
  • MFU members have worked to advance bills expanding farm permits beyond farm kids, expanding funding for broadband and funding cooperative development grants at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
  • MFU continues to speak out against the proposed merger between Sanford and M-Health Fairview. MFU supports competition in the marketplace and this merger is likely to lead to higher prices, hospital closures and lower quality service. MFU has also been working on legislation that would create more comprehensive pre-merger notification requirements for health care mergers and give the Attorney General the authority to enjoin or unwind a merger that does not protect the public interest (SF1681/HF402). This legislation is advancing in both bodies.
  • Also, on the topic of competitive markets, MFU has been a vocal supporter of Attorney General Keith Ellison’s budget request for antitrust work. As proposed by the governor, this legislation would provide nearly $1 million in ongoing funding to hire additional attorneys in the antitrust division. It would also provide $1 million to establish a revolving fund to help pay for multistate litigation expenses.
  • A third item on the competition agenda is Right to Repair. MFU supports establishing a Right to Repair law in Minnesota (HF1337/SF1598). This proposal would grant farmers, consumers and independent repair technicians and mechanics access to the diagnostic tools and parts needed to fix agricultural equipment and consumer items. This bill has been acted favorable upon in the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee and the Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee. The Senate the Commerce Committee has acted favorably on the bill, although that committee removed agricultural equipment.
  • MFU continues to lead on rebuilding Minnesota’s local and regional meat processing system.  Four bills to help local and regional meat processors are advancing through agriculture committees. There’s funding for the AGRI Value Added program for meat and poultry processing (SF2620/HF2563), establishing a meat processing navigator position at MDA (SF1592/HF1302) and funding grants for worker training, recruitment and retention (SF2681/HF2562). There’s also a bill to fund training grants to help navigate regulations for meat processors (SF861/HF1303).
  • MFU is supporting efforts to help farmers lead in voluntary work to build climate resilience on working lands. A variety of these initiatives are moving forward.
  • MFU is building on its Farmers’ Guide to Carbon Market Contracts in Minnesota, which was released earlier this year, with legislation that bars confidentiality clauses in carbon market contracts. This was heard by both the House and Senate and will be considered for a final agriculture policy bill.
  • Legislation allowing immigrants to earn driver’s licenses has passed and been signed by the governor. MFU supports this legislation to help people get to work and increase safety in rural areas.

The constitutional adjournment deadline for the Minnesota legislature is Monday, May 22.