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Pawlenty seeks federal pork help; other briefs

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty has asked federal authorities to help the pork industry, mostly encouraging them to work out better international trade deals.

The Minnesota Republican stopped short of what nine of his colleagues, including those from Iowa and Wisconsin, asked: increasing spending on pork for federal community programs. His office said he preferred to send his own letter, so turned down an invitation to sign their letter.

"Given the importance of pork production to Minnesota's economy, I urge you to initiate long-term strategies to assist this important business sector," Pawlenty wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor.

Pawlenty urged Vilsack to use "already appropriated funds, if available, to support and promote pork producers." For the long-term, he added, federal authorities should focus on trade negotiations to open up more markets.

He told Vilsack that pork is a $4 billion industry to Minnesota, supporting more than 55,000 jobs. Pork producers say they lose more than $30 a hog because of high feed costs and a drop in demand caused by the recession and a fear from "swine flu."

China and other countries have banned American pork, citing fears of H1N1 flu, also known as "swine flu," even though scientists say people cannot catch the flu from eating pork.

Kline rejects offer

Don't plan to attend a health-care reform meeting with U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and John Kline standing side by side.

Kline's office questions the real reason for the Walz invitation for a joint public meeting.

"That we received his invitation on the same day it was released to the press leads me to question if there was ever a good faith intent on Mr. Walz's behalf," Kline spokesman Troy Young said. "Frankly, it sounds like a publicity stunt."

But Walz Press Secretary Sara Severs said the southern Minnesota congressman truly wanted the joint meetings.

"Frankly, the congressman was sincere in his offer to do a town hall in our district and Congressman Kline's district and we wouldn't characterize meeting with constituents as a publicity stunt," said Severs.

In a news release and letter to Kline, Democrat Walz invited his Republican colleague to hold two joint health meetings, one in each man's district.

"In the past few weeks, we have seen shouting matches and disruptions in public meetings on health care in other parts of the country," Walz said. "That's not how we do it in Minnesota. My proposal is to restore civility to the great American tradition of town hall meetings. We restore this civility by having some good old-fashioned bi-partisan listening to all the people and all of the perspectives."

But Young said it appeared more like Walz wanted to be joined by the top Republican on a House committee that will deal with health care.

"Congressman Kline is focusing on communicating with constituents in the 2nd district about why he opposes a government takeover of health care," Young said.

House budgets cut

Minnesota House committees will have less money to spend in the next year.

The House Rules Committee opted to set a budget of $18,000 for most committees, $2,000 short of the past year.

Ritchie to fellowship

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is one of 40 state leaders who will attend a week-long fellowship program next month.

As part of the Toll Fellowship Program, sponsored by the Council of State Governments, Ritchie is study trends analysis, policy development, media and constituent relations and leadership and institutional changes. The fellowship is to develop leaders in all three state government branches. It will be in Lexington Ky.

"I look forward to this opportunity to share my experience in public service with others and incorporate valuable lessons to improve service to the people of Minnesota," Ritchie said.

The Pennsylvania secretary of state and former Minnesota Administration Department Commissioner Dana Badgerow recommended Ritchie for the fellowship.

Green jobs featured

"Green" jobs will be featured at a state exhibit during the Minnesota State Fair.

Positively Minnesota, a public-private partnership, will host the exhibit about clean-energy jobs in the Eco Experience building.

"Growing green jobs is a key to our economic future," said Commissioner Dan McElroy of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. "Our wind and renewable energy industries are strong, and we are at the forefront of environmental technology. We have a budding group of green entrepreneurs and a significant emphasis on green architecture and construction. We see the green economy as a job generator for Minnesota."

The state produces the fourth most wind power of any state and is fourth in ethanol production. Duluth's port is the second most active in shipping wind turbines.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.