Last week, AgriGrowth testified in the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, as well as the House Agriculture Committee. In both virtual committee hearings, AgriGrowth staff were afforded the opportunity to introduce ourselves and discuss what our top legislative priorities were for the 2021 session. Due to the hearings being held virtually, it allowed AgriGrowth to connect our names and faces with not only long-time legislators, but also with a handful of new legislators who were elected for the first time last fall. In addition, AgriGrowth was also able to present the findings of the 2020 Economic Contribution Study of Minnesota Agriculture and Forestry to the Senate committee members and general public who were tuned in.
Patrick Murray also recently joined Linder Farm Network to talk about AgriGrowth's 2021 state policy priorities. Listen to the interview here.
Register Now for AgriGrowth's “Day on the Hill” on February 16
Register now for the 2021 AgriGrowth “Day on the Hill” virtual event set for Tuesday, February 16. This annual event is critical to AgriGrowth’s efforts to advocate for and advance our public policy initiatives. Members from across the state and region will come together virtually to meet with legislators and officials to discuss the important role our members play in the Minnesota and regional economy and how current issues affect their businesses.
Invited lawmakers include:
This interactive event will offer AgriGrowth members the opportunity to engage with lawmakers on what their top priorities are for 2021 legislative session. If you have any questions, please contact Patrick Murray at (651) 238-0089 firstname.lastname@example.org.
House DFL & Republican Senate Majorities Introduce Top Legislative Priorities for 2021
Last week, the House DFL majority discussed their top legislative initiatives for the 2021 legislative session during a virtual press conference featuring caucus leadership. Among their top priorities were housing assistance and homelessness prevention, emergency cash payments to families most in need, food security, and broadband expansion. Other areas the caucus will focus on this session include emergency paid sick leave for healthcare workers, workers’ compensation for school employees who contract COVID-19, assisting hospitality workers, expanding unemployment insurance to those collecting social security, and child care provider grants.
In addition, a bill was introduced by Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls) to expand high-speed broadband internet access with a $120 million investment into the Border-to-Border Broadband Program. This competitive program provides matching grants for internet providers to expand access across the state. The Minnesota Broadband Taskforce has recommended an ongoing biennial appropriation of this amount to meet the state’s speed goals. AgriGrowth continues to support additional funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Program with lawmakers during the 2021 legislative session.
The Republican Senate majority recently introduced several of its top priorities for the 2021 legislative session as well. Among them are a series of bills to authorize the continued operations of business during COVID-19, repealing the governor’s emergency powers as it relates to COVID-19, requiring select state agencies to find 5 percent savings in their budgets to assist in balancing the state budget, legislative authority over federal COVID-19 assistance, and prevention of funds from the state’s disaster contingency account to be used as a result for acts of civil unrest. In addition, a bill was also introduced by Sen. Tom Bakk (I – Cook) to expand high-speed broadband internet access with a $120 million investment into the Border-to-Border Broadband Program.
If you have any questions about the 2021 legislative session, please contact AgriGrowth’s Director of Government & Member Relations, Patrick Murray at email@example.com or (651) 238-0089.
Update on COVID Vaccine Input and Roll-Out from Executive Director Tamara Nelsen
AgriGrowth is blessed to represent such a resourceful, resilient, and essential sector as agri-food and its supporting organizations. Members of our great industry never cease to amaze me! From their rapid response to COVID-19 challenges to ensure consumers got needed food and other products (including hand sanitizer) to their recent input and offers to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution across our state: Our members and our industry always rise to the challenge.
A key priority for our members remains keeping our agri-food system functioning and providing needed food and other products to consumers. Our “essential” industry classification and high priority in December releases of vaccine distribution plans at both the federal and the state level were welcome news. At that time and now, we know the vaccine roll-out will not be easy and we continue to provide input into that process through state agencies. For our part, AgriGrowth will remain a convener of complex discussions and a conduit of your input to those agencies and individuals and vice versa.
Yesterday, Governor Walz announced that Minnesota will be piloting a community COVID-19 vaccine program in partnership with local public health and school districts starting Thursday, January 21st. The community vaccination pilot program will be the foundation for mass vaccination clinics in Minnesota communities once the federal government increases vaccine supply. The nine pilot sites launching this week will have a small number of doses for eligible Minnesotans.
Currently, there is a very limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in Minnesota and our state has not yet received an increase in vaccine doses from the federal government. Minnesota leaders continue to seek additional doses from the federal government and will provide more details on in the coming weeks. Minnesota Department of Agriculture leadership is in regular contact with the Governor’s Office and the Minnesota Department of Health regarding how frontline workers in agri-food fit into the distribution phases. Both offices acknowledge and understand the need to provide priority access to the vaccine to those groups as soon as supply is available. AgriGrowth will continue to closely monitor the situation and to make input to those offices. Commissioner of Agriculture Thom Petersen will speak to the AgriGrowth Board of Directors on Friday, January 22.