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Minnesota House passes drought relief bill

With two competing versions of the bill in the Legislature, the House and Senate will likely have to negotiate on a compromise in conference committee.

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ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House voted 101-33 Thursday evening, March 10, to pass a Democratic-Farmer-Labor version of a drought relief bill for farmers and ranchers. But with a competing Republican proposal from the Senate, aid may face further delays as lawmakers work to hash out differences between the bills.

A Republican-backed proposal that passed the Agriculture Committee in the Senate Wednesday focuses mostly on grants for farmers and ranchers, appropriating $10 million in relief grants, as well as funding for the state Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and $500,000 for deer farmers.

The Democrats’ proposal offers similar relief but adds $13 million for programs including reforestation efforts to counter tree loss inflicted by the drought and grants for water infrastructure.

“The ongoing drought has affected forests throughout Minnesota,” Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, said in a release announcing the bill passing the House. “This bill provides for reforestation in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Protecting our public natural resources is critical in conserving water and mitigating climate change.”

Hansen and Rep. Mike Sundin, DFL-Esko, authored the House version of the relief bill, which despite some Republican protests passed with bipartisan support.

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Earlier on in the Legislative session, both parties appeared to agree on $10 million in drought relief. With two competing versions of the bill in the Legislature, the House and Senate will likely have to negotiate on a compromise in conference committee.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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