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Capital Chatter: Federal lawmakers lobby Trump on agriculture

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue arrives for a meeting with then-president-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, Nov. 30, 2016. Mike Segar / Reuters

ST. PAUL—Midwestern members of Congress worry about what the Trump administration may do about agriculture-related issues, especially a law requiring use of crop-based fuel.

U.S.Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she drove home that point during a recent meeting with agriculture secretary nominee Sonny Perdue. Also, a bipartisan group of representatives sent a letter to President Donald Trump saying the Renewable Fuel Standard law is critical.

"As a co-chair of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus, it is important to remind the new administration of its commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard and how it creates jobs and strengthens rural economies," Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said. "I am pleased with the bipartisan support for this letter and will continue to fight for a robust Renewable Fuel Standard in the years to come."

Representatives told the administration that in 2015 alone that the Renewable Fuel Standard which requires a certain amount of crop-based fuel in gasoline and diesel, created nearly 86,000 jobs "ranging from farms to equipment manufacturers to ethanol production facilities."

Work is beginning on a new farm legislation, and Midwesterners are taking the initiative to make sure they are heard. As a Georgian, Perdue knows less about Midwestern agriculture than many of his predecessors.

"It was important for me to sit down with ... Perdue and discuss the issues that are important to farmers in Minnesota and across the Midwest," Klobuchar said. "In addition to an on-time farm bill reauthorization and a strong RFS, I urged him to support our bipartisan efforts to open up new markets in countries like Cuba for our farmer's goods and products, and to expand broadband access in rural America."

Sunday history Monday?

Minnesota representatives plan to vote on a bill Monday, Feb. 20, to allow liquor stores to be open Sundays.

The issue long has been discussed, but always failed. This year, however, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, has jumped on board the bandwagon and many observers give it a good chance to pass. The future in the Senate is less clear.

The national Distilled Spirits Council says Minnesotans want the convenience of buying liquor instead of crossing a state line to make the purchase.

"Ending this archaic Prohibition-era alcohol law benefits consumers and generates new revenue without raising taxes," Distilled Spirits Council Vice President Dale Szyndrowski said. "Minnesota lawmakers should pass Sunday sales legislation to benefit consumers, small business owners and the state treasury.""

The council reports that an economic analysis shows statewide Sunday sales of alcohol could generate up to $15 million in new tax revenues for the state. On the other hand, many owners of small stores say they their sales, now made in six days, would be spread out over seven days, which would add overhead that could cut profits.

Super ice fishing

Rep. Tony Jergens of Cottage Grove wants to make sure visitors to next year's football Super Bowl in Minneapolis can experience another sport: ice fishing.

"In an effort to promote Minnesota and our outdoor heritage, I am authoring a bill that would waive a fishing license requirement throughout Super Bowl week," the freshman lawmaker said. "Let's face it, people outside of the Midwest think we're nuts to drive out on a frozen lake in the middle of winter, cut a hole in the ice and try to catch a fish. There is a strong likelihood that a team's fans from a warm-climate state will be making their first visit to Minnesota in order to watch the game. So why not encourage them to participate in the full Minnesota experience while they're here?"

Get kids home early

High school students 18 and older should not work after 11 p.m. on school nights, Rep. Mary Murphy says, just like those 17 and younger.

The Hermantown lawmaker introduced to bill to make sure older high schoolers get home early.

Becky Brenna, a Proctor mother of an 18 year old high school student, told a committee a fix to the current state law is needed. Her son, Cole, was hired part-time at a local retail store, but soon after he began the job, he was working until 12:30 a.m. four to five times a week.

"They can't do that, you're in high school," Brenna said to her son.

After doing some research on child labor laws in Minnesota, Brenna learned that the current law only prohibits students age 17 and younger from working past 11 p.m. on school nights.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.