House GOP steps up Ag attack on DFL committee structure

The Rules Committee in the Minnesota House on Monday rebuffed efforts to move oversight of the Agriculture Finance budget from the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee.

Republicans have been pushing for the change, saying the issue was too important to be lumped into a larger committee that is chaired by a Minneapolis Democrat. Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, says combining environmental policies with agricultural issues sends the wrong message to rural Minnesota.

"I've been sent up here to do a job. It's not my district. It's the district that I have the pleasure to represent and it happens to be an ag district," Hamilton said. "You know what? It's about time that the ag members start standing up for themselves."

Republicans have been criticizing the House DFL majority for being out of touch with rural Minnesota.

Last week, the Minnesota Republican Party issued a news release questioning why Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, chairs the committee. There have been several letters to the editor in rural Minnesota newspapers from Hamilton and GOP House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, criticizing the new committee structure. The House Republican Caucus also pointed out that Wagenius mistakenly referred to the Future Farmers of America (FFA) as the FAA in last week's first committee hearing.

Democrats say Republicans are trying to score political points. They also say Wagenius will represent agricultural issues appropriately.

Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, says he's offended by comments that Democrats aren't focused on rural issues. He predicts the new committee structure will work and will allow for a broader discussion on farming and the environment.

"Good golly, we ought to at least be able to have the conversation and take it to the committees that we have set up like Natural Resources." Persell said. "For crying out loud, that has a lot to do with agriculture. I agree with someone else who said 'Ag is stewardship."

DFL House leaders also say Austin Rep. Jeanne Poppe holds a key position as chair of the House Agriculture Committee.

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