ST. PAUL — Minnesota state legislators are accusing one another of playing politics as the state's fund for a farm loan program nears empty.
According to the state Department of Agriculture, funds for the Rural Finance Authority — a state loan program designed to assist farmers — will run dry on or near Friday, Feb. 21. Calling the situation "urgent," state Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, on Wednesday unsuccessfully motioned to bring a bill funding the program to a floor vote.
Although the bill has not yet been heard in a committee, Hamilton said farmers can't wait long for the funding to be replenished. But Rep. Jeanne Poppe, D-Austin, who authored the bill, encouraged her colleagues to wait until the bill receives its scheduled hearing next week.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, also urged House members to hold off, and said members behind Wednesday's motion had "not done their homework" or discussed a fast-track for the bill with committee chairs or House leadership.
He went on to say that introducing "a surprise motion on the floor (...) suggests not urgency, but politics."
After his motion failed by a 72-53 vote, Hamilton bit back in an afternoon news release, saying a majority of House members failed to "to act with a sense of urgency" for Minnesota farmers.
“Farmers don’t have time for political games," he said. "We need to make sure the dollars are there for RFA loans and available to the farmers in need."
If passed, House File 2959 will allocate $50 million to the RFA program, which offers low-interest loans to farmers. It is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday.