Move to make farming practices green and greener

Environmentalists would like Minnesota farmers to plant more cover crops that enrich the soil as alternatives to corn and soy beans. Farmers want to run profitable operations. State funding is being proposed for the University of Minnesota to make those two aims compatible rather than mutually exclusive.

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‘Truth-in-advertising’ for bee-friendly plants

The collapse of honey bee populations isn’t just affecting the natural world, it’s also altering the consumer landscape. Shoppers at nurseries have become increasingly interested in plants that haven’t been treated with insecticides viewed as harmful to bees and other pollinators, Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) on Wednesday told the House Agriculture Policy Committee.

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Farm-to-Food Shelf bill advances in House committee

A couple summers ago, Apple Valley vegetable grower Gary Pahl had more sweet corn in his fields than grocery stores would buy. But rather than disposing of the excess, he worked with a Twin Cities hunger relief organization to get the food to Minnesotans who struggle to put food on the table. Pahl on Thursday told the House Agriculture Policy Committee that his participation in Second Harvest Heartland’s farm-to-food shelf program has grown so that in 2013 he donated 847,000 pounds of food.

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Dayton’s budget provides more tax relief

Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday proposed his supplemental budget of tax and spending changes. The governor’s proposal comes after the Minnesota Management & Budget last Friday released the February economic forecast that projected a $408 million increase in the General Fund surplus. The surplus is now pegged at $1.23 billion for the 2014-2015 budget period that ends June 30, 2015.

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State budget surplus grows by $408 million

The outlook for the state’s budget surplus got a little sweeter.State lawmakers now have an extra $1.23 billion to spend for the current 2014-2015 biennium that ends June 30, 2015. The news, delivered in Minnesota Management & Budget’s twice annual economic forecast, shows a $408 million improvement from the previous surplus reported in early December.The February Economic Forecast released Friday shows that the economy is once again growing after the deep economic recession of 2008 and early 2009 that opened up barrels full of red ink in the state’s budget. MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter said $366 million of the $408 million improvement from the earlier forecast was attributed to increased projections in tax collections.“This forecast improvement is due almost entirely to better revenues that were driven by a better economy,” Schowalter said.This is the first time since 2006 that state lawmakers have entered an even-numbered year session with a sizeable budget surplus, according to the nonpartisan House Fiscal Analysis Department. Lawmakers convened the 2014 session on Tuesday, and ideas abound on both sides of the aisle about what do with the largesse.Gov. Mark Dayton and leaders of the House and Senate DFL majorities are already articulating a handful of priorities for the money. But they don’t yet appear to have the consensus needed to sign-off on a global agreement. Continue Reading