Is Agriculture Battle Over?

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s aide who so angered farm-area legislators that they said the governor had declared war on agriculture now says he made mistakes.

Deputy Chief of Staff Linden Zakula sent an email to the media Monday night, May 15, clarifying two mistakes he made in a May 9 memorandum when he was attacking the Republican-written agriculture finance bill, which Dayton later vetoed.

For one, he originally said the GOP bill would eliminate a fee charged on chemical companies. However, the legislation would keep the same fee as now exists, but not raise it as Dayton wants.

Zakula also had said the bill “would also give a free license on pesticide overuse” because it would “overrule federal law” that sometimes requires pre-approval of pesticide use. On Monday, he said the measure “would place state law in conflict with federal law and would restrict the state’s authority to enforce pesticide laws.”

House Agriculture Finance Chairman Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, last week reacted to the original Zakula memo by telling Forum News Service: “I don’t know why they want to go out and wage this war on agriculture. It’s wrong.”

On Monday night, Hamilton took to Twitter to thank Zakula for trying to clarify the fee issue, but continued to disagree on the pesticide approval situation.

“Thank you,” Zakula tweeted back to Hamilton. “I sincerely appreciate your work and your tenacity in representing your constituents. I pride myself on accuracy, I fell short here.”

But all is not well between the Dayton administration and farm-country lawmakers.

The governor has said he will veto any bill that changes or delays his signature clean water initiative: a 2015 law that requires vegetative buffers, or alternative conservation practices, between cropland and water.

Farmers say there are too many questions about the buffer law and it is coming up too fast this fall to implement it.

Besides buffers, Hamilton last week expressed other frustrations with the Dayton administration that Zakula did not address in his Monday night email.

The agriculture issues will be part of budget negotiations between Dayton and legislative leaders this week.