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Legislative update

St. Paul, Minn. – AURI, along with many other state initiatives, received a major funding reduction by the Minnesota State Legislature this session. A bill signed by Governor Tim Pawlenty in June funds AURI at $1.6 million for each of the next two years; the previous level was $3.7 million. However, AURI will remain an independent nonprofit organization, rather than merge into a state agency or be eliminated, as some earlier legislative measures proposed.

“We recognize that the legislature had a difficult task trying to balance the budget and meet the state’s needs,” says Edgar Olson, AURI executive director. “There remain many opportunities for us to work with rural Minnesota businesses to add value to the crops we grow. We are pleased that legislators and the governor recognized AURI’s value and the need for our services and kept our organization going.”

Earlier this year, the state cut AURI’s funding by $887,000, which forcedÊit to close one office in Morris, Minn. and reduce staff. Further reductions will be necessary with the additional 57 percent cut just passed by the legislature. While reductions will be difficult, “we are still committed to carrying out our mission,” Olson says. “Being independent allows us to react quickly to provide unique technical assistance and help develop ag-based products and markets that benefit rural Minnesota.”

In addition to AURI’s base-funding reduction, hybrid poplar research funding and the Pesticide Reductions Options program were eliminated. The hybrid poplar program supported research into fast-growing poplar trees, and the PRO program focused on research aimed at reducing petrochemical use in farm production.