Tough issues looming in ag and natural resources

by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor

Some tough issues are expected to come before some agriculture and natural resources committees of the Minnesota Legislature this session.

Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, chairs the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee. She says it’s early and difficult to determine all of the issues “right now” and the budget will help define the issues.

She believes the following issues may come before her committee:

• Drought caused by Mother Nature
• Invasive species
• Frac sand mining

New federal rules about the ozone and fine particulate matter are going to be watched carefully,  Wagenius says. She says the goal is to stay under set health limits.

Speaking about invasive issues, Rep. Wagenius said one-time funding was approved by the Legislature but a huge gap in funding exists. She also said the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR) has proposed a next step in funding an aquatic invasive species study group at the University of Minnesota.

Wagneius’ committee will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays during this legislative session.

Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, chairs the Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.

Sparks anticipates a policy bill coming and one speaking to biofuels and ethanol. He also says food and safety issues will likely be on his committee’s docket.

Part of Sparks’ committee responsibility will center on  jobs by working with DEED (Department of Employment and Economic Development) and Labor & Industry. “We want to come up with some good economic development tools to work on job creation throughout the state,” Sparks said.

Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, chairs the Agriculture Policy Committee. Concerns about property taxes and farmer-lender mediation will likely come before her committee, she predicts.

Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, is the chairman of the Environment and  Natural Resources Policy Committee, which held its first meeting Jan. 15.

There was a presentation on Asian Carp Deterrence Alternatives by Steve Hirsch, director of Ecological Resources and Waters Division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and  Bob Meier, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources legislative director. Geoff Griffin, CEO, G-Cubed, provided comments about electric fish barriers.

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