Each year, MFU sets priorities for the Minnesota legislative session based on our grassroots policy. Here are our main priorities for 2022:
Last summer, Minnesota experienced its worst drought in 30 years. Nearly 90 percent of the state faced ‘severe’ drought conditions that stunted the growth of crops, dried up water sources for livestock, and deteriorated hay ground and pasture. While it is now winter, the drought is not over. We support action early in session to deliver swift, accessible relief that will help producers adapt and remain resilient to future droughts. This includes funding ‘Rapid Response Grants’ at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), providing targeted tax relief, repealing sales tax on fencing equipment, and helping specialty crop producers access affordable crop insurance.
Strong ag budget for a resilient food system
When COVID-19 hit, MDA was quick to respond with hands-on support for farms and the ag and food businesses they rely on to market their products. We support strong funding for MDA, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), and the Board of Animal Health (BAH) so that they can continue partnering with farmers to build a more resilient food system. MFU opposes any cuts to ag programs funded by the legislature last session.
Expanding meat and poultry processing
A severe shortage of processing in Minnesota has put pressure on family farmers, limiting their businesses. This bottleneck was intensified by COVID-19 when the large packing plants shut down, keeping producers from meeting increasing consumer demand for locally grown meat and poultry. That’s why we support investments to expand processing, including by:
- Supporting the meat cutting technical training programs at technical colleges (SF2196/HF2316);
- Ensuring adequate funding for state inspectors;
- Increasing funding for processors to expand, start new plants, or support a generational transition (SF1218/HF1604);
- Supporting the development of cooperatives or other ways for farmers to organize themselves to process or market products, including meat and poultry (HF1274).
Corporate consolidation in the food and ag system pushes down prices paid to farmers, increases input costs, stifles innovation, and limits individual farmers’ voices in the marketplace. On the state level, we support strengthening the Attorney General’s ability to enforce anti-trust claims by increasing the penalty for anti-trust violations, expanding enforcement staff, and improving transparency in agricultural markets.
Generational farm transition
The price of farmland in Minnesota is continuing to rise, up by nearly 10% from 2020 to 2021. This makes it increasingly difficult for young people to build a life in agriculture. This is a challenge for not only those families, but also the rural communities they help support. We support assisting in generational farm transition, including through:
- Expanding incentives to pass farmland onto the next generation, including through the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit (BFTC);
- targeting programs and tax incentives, including extending capital gains exemptions, that support farmland access and transition;
- expanding access to credit, including through Minnesota’s Rural Finance Authority (RFA);
- strengthening MDA’s FarmLink program, funding Farmland Access Navigators, and otherwise helping new farmers access land.
Beginning Farmer Tax Credit (BFTC)
Access to land and equipment are core challenges for beginning farmers, and this tax credit helps give them a leg up. We strongly support expanding this credit.
We support policies and programs that remove systemic barriers for emerging farmers by:
- funding of the Minnesota Emerging Farmers Working Group;
- targeting programs and tax incentives, including extending capital gains exemptions, that support farmland access and generational farm transition;
- expanding access to credit; and
- ensuring that existing programs are accessible, useful, and responsive to the unique needs of emerging farmers.
Affordable health care
Farmers, like other small business owners, are hit hard with the high cost of health care – and many can’t afford it. That’s why we strongly support initiatives that would lower the cost of health care for farmers and all Minnesotans, including a public option to allow farmers to ‘buy-in’ to MinnesotaCare. We also support initiatives to support rural care providers, increase reimbursement rates, expand telehealth, and otherwise improve access to care in rural areas.
Family farmers are on the front lines of the climate crisis, experiencing extreme weather, unpredictable growing seasons and increased risk of plant
and animal diseases. Farmers are coming up with ways to remain resilient, and even put carbon back in the soil. That’s why we support:
- helping farmers earn a fair return on voluntary investments in practices that sequester carbon and deliver other ecosystem benefits;
- funding and expanding the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) and other voluntary programs that help farmers implement practices that promote soil health;
- making conservation equipment available to farmers to implement new practices;
- expanding the use of biofuels, on farm renewable energy, perennial plants, and energy efficiency.
The pandemic took a toll on the biofuels industry, which farmers rely on for a local, value-added market for farm products. We support the increased use of cleaner-burning, renewable biofuels, including a move toward statewide E15.
In facing challenges – from COVID-19 to consolidation across the ag supply chain – many farmers see opportunity in joining together to form cooperatives for processing, marketing, or otherwise adding value to products they grow. We support reauthorizing cooperative development grants to help farmers access the capital need to start new cooperatives (HF1274).
We strongly support the state’s Farmer-Lender Mediation program, which helps farmers successfully manage debt and at times avoid foreclosure. We also support dedicating additional resources to farmers who are in mediation.
Farmers rely on high-speed internet to monitor market trends, connect with customers, teach their kids, and access healthcare, but too many still are not able to link up. That’s why we support border-to-border broadband development, providing affordable connectivity to every residence.
When Pipeline Foods declared bankruptcy this past summer, MFU members who delivered them grain were left unpaid. Over a dozen states including Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, Illinois, and Michigan have indemnity funds, which protect producers in the event of fraud, elevator collapse or other events that result in nonpayment to producers. We support creating an indemnity fund to protect producers in Minnesota.
Ag to School Tax Credit
This credit provides farmers property tax relief while helping rural schools make improvements to their facilities. We strongly support this win-win for farmers and rural communities.
Rural Finance Authority (RFA)
Financing is a central challenge for farmers, which makes the RFA’s work to partner with local lenders to offer low-interest loans that help small and mid-sized farmers so important. We support expanding access to this program.
We support continued investments in farm safety.
We strongly support a long-term, sustainable plan to fund transportation.
Corporate farm law
We strongly support maintaining the current Minnesota corporate farm law.
We strongly support funding for reimbursing farmers who experiences losses.
We support funding for ag education including 4-H, Extension, and Farm Business Management.
School start date
We oppose allowing school districts to start the school year before Labor Day.
We support strategic investments needed to sustain the state’s growing hemp industry.
Right to Repair
We support ensuring farmers have the right to fix electronic parts on their equipment.
We support increasing habitat and research to help promote pollinators for crops.
We support full and sustainable funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), who serve as on-the-ground technicians and experts for farmers.
For more information, please contact:
Gary Wertish, President
email@example.com or (651) 262-7128
Stu Lourey, Government Relations Director
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Julia Wickham, Legislative Coordinator
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