The Line: What is food? You tell us!

This week on the Line

Molly Pederson, Government Affairs Director


Did you know that Minnesota has a definition of “food” in statute? It does! Did you know that it got amended in both the House and Senate Game and Fish Bill? It did! Here’s what happened in the House. The old definition of food, Minn. Statute 31.01 subdivision 3 used to read:
“Food” means articles used for food or drink for humans or other animals, chewing gum, and articles used for components of any such article.

Now it reads:
“Food” means articles used for food or drink for humans or other animals, chewing gum, and articles used for components of any such article. Food does not mean hunter-harvested venison that a person donates for charitable purposes.

As for the Senate, the bill includes a line under the Venison Donation statute, 97B.303 that says:
Hunter-harvested venison donated under this section is not subject to chapter 31 and must be clearly marked as hunter-harvested venison.

Chapter 31 is…yep, the definition and regulation of food.

This is all happening because some legislators don’t want the state to be regulating lead contained in venison anymore. A few years back, unhealthy doses of lead were found in around 40% of donated venison. The state started a venison donation program that allowed hunters to donate venison to processors, then the processors sent it along to food shelves without all the lead. The state put a surcharge on deer hunting licenses, and allowed hunters to donate money, to cover the cost of the program.

According to the Department of Agriculture and proponents of the processing program, everything was jim-dandy. But apparently, making sure food doesn’t poison poor people is just too much of a hassle for all of the legislators who voted to redefine food so that it doesn’t have to be regulated anymore. Go figure. Oh, and all the money previously allocated to support the processing program? It’s been redirected to support a hunter walk-in access program.

Of course, this could all go away if you vote “no” on the bill (HF 2171 and SF 1830) when it comes up on the floor this week.

Caught at the Capitol this week

You’ve got a whole lot of tossing back to do this week on the House and Senate floor. Here’s what we know about so far.


HF 2171 is the aforementioned Game and Fish Bill. Just for kicks, the House Environment Committee also amended it so that anyone with a loaded gun and a permit for that gun can walk into a police station or jail and access their shooting range. How did a bill that’s supposed to be about hunting and fishing turn into a public safety nightmare?

HF 2164, the Omnibus Environment Policy bill, contains provisions that roll back protections in the Wetlands Conservation Act, prevents the state from adopting water standards that are more protective than federal standards (there are no federal water standards), and removes the Executive Council’s authority over the condemning of private property for minerals leasing.

SF 2493 is the Legacy funding bill. The House version doesn’t follow the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the Clean Water Council. Most troubling is the $1 million directly allocated to an ethanol plant so that the plant can retrofit and meet its permit requirements. These dollars were never intended to help private corporations abide by the law.


SF 1298 is called the “Small Business Bill of Rights.” It says that, even if a polluter is found liable for polluting, the state still might have to pay the polluter’s legal fees.

SF 1830 is the Omnibus Environment and Game and Fish Bill which rolls back protections in the Wetlands Conservation Act, redefines “food” so that donated venison isn’t tested for lead, and keeps state parks open during a government shutdown.

What is the Line? It’s Conservation Minnesota’s light, 100% Minnesotan look at conservation happenings at the Capitol as seen by me, a lobbyist who actually doesn’t go outside very much. Please don’t confuse the Line with the always enjoyable musings of the other, taller half of Conservation Minnesota’s government affairs team, John Tuma. You can (and should!) check out his blog here.

Questions about anything in the Line? Contact Molly.

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About Molly Pederson

Molly brings expertise in communications and organization to us. She draws on her breadth of experience in the political, nonprofit and private sector realms to build broad support for issues. She’s a veteran of local and state campaigns Molly is an avid reader and has undertaken writing her own novel. Her interest in clean water and open spaces is a personal one as she enjoys sailing and cross-country skiing.
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