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2012 Omnibus Agriculture Policy bill creates Immigrant and Minority Farmer Loan Program

May 3, 2012

This just in from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture…  Along with statutory language for food and dairy inspection, grain trade and biofuels, the bill introduces support for farmers who struggle financially due to lack of credit (see last paragraph bout the Immigrant and Minority Lending Program). Access to financial resources to maintain or improve farm operations has been a perennial roadblock to farmers on the fringe in Minnesota and the U.S.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Governor Mark Dayton has signed into law the 2012 Omnibus Agriculture Policy bill. The legislation, which received broad bipartisan support, streamlines and modernizes statutes covering food safety enforcement, grain trade and renewable fuels.

The bill streamlines and modernizes the statutory language governing MDA’s Dairy and Food Inspection Division by consolidating the enforcement provisions of Minnesota State Statutes 28 (cold storage), 28A (licensing food handlers), 29 (eggs), 30 (wild rice/potatoes/apples), 31 (food), 31A (meat and poultry) and 34 (non-alcoholic beverages). The bill creates one chapter that clearly describes the enforcement options for food product categories overseen by MDA, and eliminates multiple definitions of key terms.

The bill also updates state grain statutes for the 21st century, repealing nearly 150 statutes and rules while modernizing statutes to reflect today’s marketplace. Language was changed to eliminate multiple reporting requirements, eliminate multiple bond types and streamline licensing processes required in the grain trade. Similar to the consolidation of the food statues, multiple grain chapters were consolidated into a single, consistent chapter.

According to MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson, the changes bring greater uniformity to MDA’s statutes and make it easier for individuals and businesses to understand what the state requires of them.

“The Agriculture Department has a wide range of regulatory responsibilities,” Frederickson said. “These duties were assigned by different pieces of legislation over the decades, and the result was often cumbersome and confusing. This bill modernizes our statutes to make them easier to understand and follow without jeopardizing our strong record on food safety.”

Another section of the legislation fine-tunes the future course of biofuels in Minnesota by extending Minnesota’s E20 mandate for two years, and requiring agencies to develop recommendations for incorporating biofuels other than ethanol into the mandate. The bill also extends exemptions on the state’s 10 percent biodiesel requirement for three more years, while directing MDA to develop proposals for evaluating the exemptions with an eye toward ending them.

Finally, the bill creates a new Immigrant and Minority Farmer Loan Program to address a “credit gap” that has been a roadblock for some members of the state’s immigrant and minority populations seeking to get into the farm and food sector or to expand their farm. The loans will be available for working capital, the purchase of feed or supplies, or the purchase of machinery or equipment.

Contact: Michael Schommer, Communications, 651.201.6629, Michael.schommer@state.mn.us

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