An amendment to move jurisdiction of agriculture finance from the House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee to the House Agriculture Policy Committee was defeated 15-12 by the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee.
The amendment — made during the session’s opening day and re-referred to the rules committee — stemmed from Republican lawmakers’ concern over the DFL decision to place control of agriculture finance in a committee that also oversees the environment and natural resources. Republicans feared the move might lessen the focus given agricultural issues and possibly diminish funding of agriculture programs.
“It’s been a longstanding tradition in the Minnesota House to have agriculture committees separate from other committees and also have chairs from rural areas that understand the importance agriculture plays in Minnesota and also to our state economy,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown). The House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee is chaired by Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls).
Rep. Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) echoed Daudt’s comments, saying agriculture needs to have autonomy. He called the committee structure “a slap in the face to agriculture.”
DFL committee members defended the decision, acknowledging there were times when agriculture and environmental issues would come into conflict, but saying it would then be beneficial if those conflicts could be resolved in a single committee.
House Majority Leader Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), the rules committee chairwoman, also noted the current structure would bring the House into better alignment with the Senate committees, streamlining the process come end of session.
Rep. John Persell (DFL-Bemidji) warned his colleagues not to jump to conclusions.
“There’s a fear that things are going to happen the way the committee is set up now,” Persell said. “But it seems to me, that’s a pre-judgment. Us rural members on our side, we’re going to stick up for ag.”