Agriculture's importance diminished by legislative committee structure, member suggests

Although most of opening day of the Minnesota House of Representatives was about non-controversial pomp and circumstance, a few disagreements emerged.

After a motion was made for the House to adopt its Temporary House Rules, Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) made a motion to amend the resolution, so that jurisdiction for agriculture finance would be with the House Agriculture Policy Committee, instead of with the House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance committee.

In recent years, funding for agriculture-related programming has been part of its own committee or division. For example, in the last biennium, when Republicans controlled the House, agriculture policy and finance issues were part of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and Finance Committee. From 2007-2010, when the DFL was in charge, agriculture and veterans funding was a division of the House Finance Committee.

“Now is not the time to be diminishing agriculture in any way, shape or form,” Hamilton said.

He added that agriculture has been “demonized” by some and cited several statistics that he said illustrated how farming today uses less water, land and carries a smaller carbon footprint than it had in the past.

“I’m Rod Hamilton; I’m a pork producer, and I’m extremely proud of it,” he said.

House Majority Leader Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) successfully motioned for the issue to be re-referred to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee.

“I think it’s important to note that we usually have these discussions in the Rules committee and not on the floor,” she said.

Her motion passed 71-60.

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It appears that this has not been the only time that the agriculture jurisdiction has come into question. In 1997, the name of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee was established by temporary rule on Jan. 7. However, when the permanent rules were adopted on March 24, the name had been changed to the House Environment and Natural Resources and Agricultural Finance Committee.