ST. PAUL, Minn. – Normally agriculture and rural development spending is not contentious, but as the legislative session draws to a close Republican lawmakers are butting heads with Gov. Mark Dayton over funding Minnesota’s farmers.
Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), and Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne) sent a letter to Dayton urging him to stop listening to partisan aides and special interests who are “either misinformed or deliberately feeding you incorrect information.”
The disagreement largely surrounds two particular provisions in the agriculture omnibus bill dealing with pesticides, both of which the Republican lawmakers disputed in their letter to Dayton. The Dayton administration claimed the bill would eliminate the fee charged on chemical companies responsible for waste pesticide disposal, which the four legislators disputed. They also pushed back on claims that the bill would open the door to pesticide overuse.
“This assertion is offensive to farmers and to the agriculture community, and shows your disconnect from the agriculture community by assuming the worst of farmers,” the GOP legislators wrote. “If you took the time to listen to farmers rather than casting aspersions in partisan memos, you would know that farmers go to great lengths to care for their land and water, and only apply pesticides when they are absolutely needed to protect crop yield.”
Part of the bill attempts to scale back Dayton’s executive order 16-07. The order required the state to take specific steps to reduce pollinator decline including restrictions on pesticides. Republicans call the order an “overreach,” instead tailoring the bill to comply with the less strict federal law.
In his veto letter, Dayton took a swipe at the bill’s attempt to go around his executive order, saying it would put the state in conflict with federal law.
“I will not sign into law any provision that rolls back the Department of Agriculture’s existing pesticide enforcement authority,” Dayton wrote.
Negotiations between Dayton and Republican lawmakers for the agriculture finance bill initially seemed to be going well, only recently grinding to a halt. Hamilton, one of the representatives who penned the letter to Dayton, said the legislators left a meeting with the governor and agriculture commissioner feeling confident they had resolved their differences. Two days later, issues that were previously agreed to were now up for debate, and new items appeared on the governor’s “must have” list.
“The meetings on the ag finance bill were frustrating and discouraging,” Hamilton said in a press release. “If this is a reflection on what’s taking place with all the other budget bills, we’re going to be here for a long time, and that’s very sad because it does not have to be this way.”