The 2019 Legislative session is underway. MFU has an ambitious agenda this session. We encourage you to contact us with questions and hope you consider attending our annual Lobby Day Drive-In at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Here are some of the issues MFU will be working on in the upcoming session.
Health care: MFU strongly supports allowing people to buy into the state MinnesotaCare program. MFU further supports extending the provider tax which sunsets Jan. 1, 2020 that helps fund the current MinnesotaCare. MFU also supports lowering prescription drug prices and continuing to allow Minnesota farmers to form health care cooperatives.
Property taxes: MFU supports legislation to address property tax relief for agriculture property. MFU supports maintaining and expanding the current 40 percent school capital improvement credit. In addition, MFU would support looking at class rates, classification and other tax-related issues.
Agriculture budget: MFU supports continuing strong funding to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, AURI and the Board of Animal Health. Key budget issues for MFU are:
– AGRI fund with priorities on Value-Added, Livestock, County Fair and Farm to School grants, including opportunities for beginning farmers and new markets.
– Funding for the combating noxious weeds, including Palmer amaranth, which is highly invasive and has been found on farms in western MN.
– Support current funding for Minnesota Grown, Dairy Development, organic and sustainable programs.
Education: MFU strongly supports funding for 4-H, Extension, Veterinarian Diagnostic Lab (VDL) and Farm Business Management programs in addition to funding research projects at the University of Minnesota. Continued stabilization for Farm Business Management is a priority for MFU this year, as is a loan forgiveness program for veterinarian students.
Farm stress: MFU supports a package of relief for farmers who are struggling through 5 years of low farm prices. This includes increased funding for Rural Mental Health Counseling, Farm Advocate Program and legal assistance through Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG).
Broadband: MFU is a member of the Rural Broadband Coalition and supports a comprehensive well-funded package that will bring broadband that benefits rural communities in Minnesota.
Tax conformity: MFU supports legislation that would work to conform Minnesota tax law to section 179 of the Federal Tax Code, either fully or partially. This code deals with “accelerated” depreciation. Minnesota lags behind neighboring states and the federal government on this issue.
Beginning Farmer Tax Credit: MFU supports the current Beginning Farmer Tax Credit, but also supports making changes to allow a portion of the credit could be used for making a family member who is selling or renting to another family members eligible for the credit (currently not allowed) and making it easier to obtain credit for farm business management to qualify for the credit.
Ag license plate: MFU supports legislation that would create an agriculture license plate and say as part of obtaining the plate, a vehicle owner would need to donate $20 annually with the proceeds going to the Minnesota FFA Foundation and Minnesota 4-H.
Wolf depredation: MFU strongly supports adequate funding for wolf depredation to be paid to farmers who experience losses and for the DNR to manage the population. MFU also supports a cost share program for farmers to mitigate wolf-livestock conflicts. MFU supports the wolf hunting and trapping season which is currently suspended.
Transportation funding: MFU strongly supports working to create adequate funding to support Minnesota roads and bridges, this includes increasing the state gas tax.
Renewable energy: MFU supports legislation that would increase the state Renewable Energy Standard (RES). The current standards call for 25 percent of Minnesota’s energy to come from renewable power by the year 2025; the legislative proposal ups those goals to 37 percent by that same deadline and 50 percent by 2030.
Right to repair: MFU supports legislation that would allow farmers to fix electronic parts of their own equipment without going to a dealer.
Meat processing: MFU will be working on legislation to address roadblocks and address wait times for farmers at Minnesota processing plants.
Farm to School: MFU supports legislation and funding for the Farm to School program which brings local fresh foods to Minnesota K-12 schools.
Industrial hemp: MFU supports funding for MDA to manage the industrial hemp program and support the farmers and business as interest in the crop continues to grow.
Buffers: MFU supports the current buffer language but would support continued clarifying language as needed as well as compensation to landowners, including a tax credit.
Ditch mowing: MFU supports working on a legislative solution that would clarify farmers would be allowed to mow and bale roadside ditches before the current Aug. 1 date under certain circumstances to be determined.
Good Food Access Fund: MFU supports continued funding for this program created by the Legislature last year that works to bring fresh foods to parts of MN that lack access and infrastructure to fresh foods.
Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule: MFU supports MDA’s Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule and the changes that have been made to the rule as it has moved through the process. MFU has heard from members in affected areas that they generally do not fall apply nitrogen. The rule banning fall application would not go into effect until 2020. However, MFU does support the committees with jurisdiction over the rule to hold hearing on the rule this coming legislative session.
Forever Green: MFU supports legislation for grants to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota to fund the Forever Green Agriculture Initiative and to protect the state’s natural resources while increasing the efficiency, profitability and productivity of Minnesota farmers by incorporating perennial and winter annual crops into existing agricultural practices.