Ag bill receives green thumbs up

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Shopping for spring garden supplies and landscape materials would be easier under provisions passed in the omnibus agriculture and rural development bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), HF2398 would define “non-hardy” as a plant that cannot be expected to survive or produce flowers in certain growing zones and requires non-hardy nursery stock to be labeled as such.

Similarly, nursery stock collected from the wild must be labeled as such when sold; unless it has been grown in nursery rows at least two years; vegetable and flower seed packets could list the number of seeds in the packet, instead of the net weight.

Passed 102-20 by the House, the bill now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Doug Magnus (R-Slayton) is the sponsor.

The Department of Agriculture’s nursery and plant inspection and enforcement powers would expand to include the department’s Wholesale Produce Dealer, Grain Buyer/Grain Storage and Warehouse oversight responsibilities. The department could enter sites, inspect and sample products, issue commissioner’s orders, and pursue administrative and criminal penalties for failure to follow laws.

Also referred to as the Food Safety Bill, it would move enforcement of food safety regulations into a new chapter of law and grant authority for the department to issue civil penalties, in addition to criminal or administrative penalties.

Other provisions would:

  • exempt commercial feed producers from paying inspection fees on the portion of feed they use themselves;
  • establish a Dairy Research, Teaching and Consumer Education Authority; and
  • enable the remaining portion of a 2010 Lutheran Social Services appropriation for disaster and mental health relief in rural communities to be expanded to more counties until spent.

On the House floor, there was lengthy debate regarding two amendments.

Rep. John Persell (DFL-Bemidji) introduced — and ultimately withdrew — an amendment that would have allowed for the home delivery of raw milk. There was bipartisan support and opposition on the topic, which focused on freedom of choice and protecting the integrity of the food supply.

An amendment unsuccessfully offered by Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls) would have urged the president and Congress to remove the trade and travel embargo with Cuba.

“The Pope just went to Cuba. Why can’t we go to Cuba too?” Kahn asked.