Local senators get ag committee appointments
WILLMAR -- The region's agricultural sector will have strong representation in the Senate during the coming biennium.
Three local senators -- Joe Gimse, Gary Kubly and Steve Dille -- have been named to the Agriculture and Veterans Budget and Policy Committee.
Dille, R-Dassel, has been named the ranking minority member of the committee.
"I hope there will be reasonable, pro-farm policies that'll make it through the system," said Dille.
Dille said he has confidence in the leadership of Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, who has been named chairman of the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee.
Initiatives that will address agriculture's involvement with alternative energy will be a hot topic this year, said Dille. The initiatives won't deal with new money for programs but "set goals to reach in the future" that will benefit farmers who produce food, fiber and fuel.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he'd like 25 percent of Minnesota's energy to come from renewable energy sources by the year 2025, and he repeated that goal Tuesday during his inaugural ad-dress.
"We'll be seeing a lot of discussion about ethanol and ethanol plants coming through that committee," said Gimse, R-Willmar. He said he'd like to see legislation approved to help younger people get into farming.
Dille said he'd also like to see the committee address ways to protect open space and farm land from urban sprawl.
Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, said he expects the dairy investment tax credit to be approved in 2007. "It should have passed last year," he said.
The ag committee may also look at requiring country of origin labeling for meat that's sold in Minnesota, said Kubly. Despite support by a majority of farmers, Kubly said the federal government has not made the labeling a requirement. Now that the Food and Drug Administration has determined that meat from cloned animals is safe to eat, Kubly said he expects Minnesotans will want to know where their meat is coming from.
Both Dille and Kubly were also assigned to the Capital Investment Committee, which will have a lot to say on funding community projects in the bonding bill.
Dille said he hopes his presence on that committee will make it easier to get funding for the Greenleaf State Park in Meeker County. Kubly said he'll lobby for money for new recreation trails in his district and for flood mitigation in Granite Falls and Montevideo.
Gimse was also put on the Transportation Budget and Policy Committee. He said he wants to make sure roads and bridges will receive 60 percent of the money from the recently passed constitutional amendment dedicating the motor vehicle excise tax and said he'll looks for ways to help counties and townships get money to maintain roads.
An additional gas tax is not out of the question.
"I could support a gas tax increase if it's at the right time," said Gimse.
All three senators said they are pleased with their committee assignments.
Gimse said he got all the committees he wanted and knew would be a good fit for District 13. "I'm happy my leadership put me on them and requested my wishes," he said. "They really went to bat for me."
Gimse is also on the Local Government Committee and the Business, Industry and Jobs Committee, where he said he'll work to develop regulations that won't "overburden" businesses.
Besides the Capital Investment and Agriculture and Veterans Affairs Committees, Kubly is also on the Economic Development Budget Committee; Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Budget Committee; and State Government Budget Committee.
Dille is also on the Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee; Finance Committee; and Environment and Energy Budget Committee.
The proposed Senate committee list was finalized last week. It will be ratified when the Senate opens the 2007 session today.