Governor Dayton on buffer bill
Governor Mark Dayton Friday thanked Republican legislators for supporting a tax credit to help alleviate the cost of compliance with state water quality requirements. The tax credit would provide eligible landowners $50 per acre, each year, for farmland converted to water quality buffers. Governor Dayton first proposed a version of this tax credit as part of his 2017 Tax Bill. “I thank Representative Paul Anderson and Senator Bill Weber for authoring this sensible, bipartisan proposal to support Minnesota farmers, who are working to protect clean water throughout our state,” said Governor Dayton. “I strongly support this legislation and encourage Republican Legislative Leaders to send it to me, as a clean bill, as soon as possible.” The proposed tax credit would allow Minnesota landowners who have installed water quality buffers on tillable land to receive the tax credit, even if they installed the buffers before the new water quality law went into effect. This bipartisan legislation is being authored in the Minnesota House of Representatives (HF 4395) by Representatives Paul Anderson, Bob Gunther, Jeff Backer, Chris Swedzinski, Joe Schomacker, and Paul Marquart, and in the Minnesota Senate (SF 3960) by Senators Bill Weber and Gary Dahms. MFU supports this legislation.
Biodiesel bill clears Senate
This past week, S.F. 3596, authored by Sen. Bill Weber, passed the Senate 67-0. This bill would modify the state’s biodiesel use mandate. The biodiesel mandate law generally requires that each gallon of Number 2 diesel fuel sold in the state be 10 percent biodiesel (B10). On May 1, 2018, this requirement will double to 20 percent, or B20. However, until state agencies certify that certain conditions have been met and declare that the B10 (or soon, B20) mandate applies year-round, from October through March each year the mandate reverts to 5 percent (B5) due to concerns about the cold-weather performance of B10/B20. The bill provides that from April 1 to April 14 each year, the minimum biodiesel content requirement is temporarily reduced to no less than ten percent. Under current law, the B10/B20 requirement begins April 1 each year. The bill also extends the biodiesel mandate exemption for Number 1 diesel indefinitely. Rep. Paul Anderson is the House author and MFU supports this legislation.
MFU was pleased to see $500,000 included in the House Legacy bill H.F. 4167 authored by Rep. Bob Gunther. The bill says $500,000 in fiscal year 2018 is appropriated from the clean water fund to the commissioner of agriculture 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. This is a onetime appropriation and is available until June 30, 2022.
RFA bill heard
This past week H.F. 4425 authored by Rep. Tim Miller was heard and passed in the Capital Investment Committee and sent to the Ways and Means Committee. The bill says $35,000,000 is appropriated from the bond proceeds fund to the Rural Finance Authority. The RFA is currently has less than $7 million left of the $35 million appropriated last year. Sen. Rich Draheim is the Senate author and MFU supports this legislation.
Omnibus Agriculture bill
Both the House and Senate Agriculture Finance committees passed their omnibus agriculture bills this past week the House bill includes an additional $30,000 for the Farm Advocate program and over $200,000 more for mental health counseling. In addition, it includes language creating a new Rural Energy Feasibility loan within the RFA to provide feasibility study loans to farmers, local units of government, municipalities and nonprofit entities to explore feasibility of renewable energy projects.
Nitrogen Rule Update
From Session Daily: The Department of Agriculture would not have the final say on adopting rules regulating nitrogen fertilizer application under provisions of a bill passed 69-56 by the House last week. But Gov. Mark Dayton may. Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley), HF2887 would prohibit the department from adopting new nitrogen rules unless they are specifically approved by law. The bill now travels to the Senate where Sen. Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks) is the sponsor. Dayton proposed new rules to reduce nitrate levels in the state’s drinking water in March. Elevated levels of nitrates can be harmful to humans. The proposal includes restricting the application of fertilizer in some areas of the state most vulnerable to nitrates leaching into the groundwater. In response, Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) and Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) – chairs of the agriculture finance and policy committees, respectively – sent a March 6 letter to Dayton calling on him to “abandon his efforts to enforce this unpopular proposition via administrative rule” and instead work the Legislature to ensure maximum input. However, in a letter to Hamilton and Anderson on Monday, Dayton promised to veto any legislation reaching his desk that prohibits implementation of the rule or repeals the executive branch’s rulemaking authority.
MDA announces nitrogen rule coming
During a hearing in the House this past week MDA announced that the Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule would be released Tuesday, April 24 and placed in the State Register April 29 followed by a near 2-month comment period. MFU will share the rule with members when it is published. Reminder that MDA has a map on their website where you can see how the rule affects you: httpss://www.mda.state.mn.us/nfr
The Property Tax Division in the House this week included language in their Division report from Rep. Steve Drazkowski’s HF 2495 that builds upon the success of last year’s 40 percent credit for school capital improvement levies by moving Minnesota to House, Garage and 1 acre for building referendums similar to operating levies for levies voted on after June 30, 2021. Rep. Paul Marquart has worked very closely with Rep. Drazkowski on this and Sen. Mark Johnson is the Senate author, you can see research sheet here: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/bs/90/HF2495.pdf
From the MN Broadband Coalition to which MFU belongs: This past week the Senate and House Jobs Committees passed their omnibus supplemental budgets this week and included $15 million in new funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Infrastructure Program. Although this funding is well below the $51.48 million the Coalition recommended, and half of what Governor Dayton requested, we are still pleased at this stage of the process to have this support
Legislative Audit Report on Board of Animal Health
The Office of the Legislative Auditor has released the evaluation report, Board of Animal Health’s Oversight of Deer and Elk Farms. The report is available at the Office of the Legislative Auditor, Room 140, Centennial Building, 658 Cedar Street, St. Paul, or online at httpss://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/ . MFU will be looking into the report which recommends adding a public member to board, which currently has 5 members. Minnesota is home to about 400 deer, elk and other cervid farms.