Agriculture deserves better at Capitol
I began my first term in the Minnesota House determined to advocate for Greater Minnesota. A top concern of mine is how legislative influence tilts strongly toward the Twin Cities.
There are 29 House committees, 22 of which are chaired by metro legislators. What is truly baffling is agriculture finance decisions will now be made by a committee with a Minneapolis environmentalist chairperson who has voted against almost all of the ag finance bills the last decade.
The House Speaker, from Minneapolis, eliminated the traditional Agriculture Finance Committee as a standalone panel, placing it within the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. This sends a bad message, that new Democratic majorities do not value agricultural decisions enough to warrant a committee.
Agriculture is a crucial economic component in Minnesota and is one of the sectors we credit for buoying our state during the recession. Now, you can't help but wonder whether agriculture will get a fair shake during the budget-shaping process. Will ag programs be appropriately funded or will they take a back seat to environmental and natural resources interests?
A slip of the committee chairwoman's tongue may have provided a clue.
During the group's first meeting, she, on multiple occasions, referred to "FFA" members as "FAA" members. This is just an anecdote, but it illustrates my point: Why are ag decisions going to be made by someone who likely has never tossed a bale, milked a cow or driven a tractor? It just makes no sense.
We attempted to pull ag finance responsibilities out of the current committee and place them with the Agriculture Policy Committee, chaired by a member from outstate Austin. That measure was denied in a party-line vote of the Rules Committee, a disappointing but not surprising turn of events.
It is difficult to comprehend why the new House majority has been so rigid on this issue. They could have easily made the switch and gained public favor by putting the responsibility of forming the Department of Agriculture budget back where it belongs.
Instead, this development makes all the talk we heard last fall about bipartisan cooperation and getting along in St. Paul ring hollow, partisan politics taking priority over what's best for Minnesotans.
The job for us who recognize this is to move on, make the best we can for agriculture and keep a sharp eye on this committee. I attended an FFA reception at a St. Paul hotel this week, and encourage those interested in agriculture to join me in this quest to advocate for Greater Minnesota.
I will keep you posted as things develop, and welcome your input as we face key decisions at the Capitol.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 800-914-3172.
I also will be sending periodic email updates throughout the session with my personal thoughts on the issues. They are free of charge, and you can sign up for them by visiting http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/9a.
Minnesota House Republican Caucus