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Pawlenty suggests ag research cut

ST. PAUL -- Agriculture leaders are questioning some cuts Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes to balance the state budget.

Especially troublesome to some is cutting the Agriculture Utilization Research Institute, a Crookston-based organization that looks for new ways to expand agriculture business through research.

"This program was created during the farm crisis in the 1980s, and since that time has created hundreds of jobs all across rural Minnesota," said Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, chairman of the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Committee. "We worked hard to preserve these value-added and biofuels programs last session. We need the research and development AURI provides; it helps Minnesota businesses looking to create more value for state agricultural products, and more than ever, we need the jobs."

Juhnke said he has not seen other budgets reduced by half, so wondered why the Crookston center is being treated like that.

"If all the state agencies are cut at the same rate, then fair is fair," Juhnke said.

Republican Pawlenty said on Monday when announcing his cuts that he prioritized the $1.2 billion in cuts. He said an average agency cut would be 6 percent.

Also among the cuts is nearly $2 million in ethanol producer payments. The Pawlenty administration reports that it is a one-time decrease in payments made to farmer-owned ethanol plants.

Also in the Agriculture Department's 6.7 percent cut are reductions in grants to fairs and other farm programs.

Pawlenty's proposed cuts now go to legislators, who will decide whether to follow his lead or go another route.