A widely anticipated special session of the Minnesota Legislature is expected to convene as soon as the end of this week. The session is nearly assured given that if the Governor extends his emergency authority to do with the pandemic—which he needs to do by Friday, June 12—state law requires that the Legislature be called back.
What lawmakers plan to accomplish is much less certain. Lawmaker priorities—and the status of negotiations between the Governor and House and Senate leadership—have undoubtedly shifted due to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the resulting demands for transformation in the criminal justice system. Democratic leaders on criminal justice were quick to advance that conversation by bringing forward a list of proposals, new and old, that will help keep people—particularly Black, Indigenous and people of color—safe.
At Farmers Union, we’ve worked to make clear that while the focus has rightly been on metro communities, rural and agricultural communities can and need to face our legacy of racism and be part of building a more just food system.
“If we stand idly by while our friends and neighbors suffer—as too many of us have done for too long—we are complicit in their suffering,” said NFU President Rob Larew in a statement. “To overcome the terrible legacy of racism in this country, we all must reflect on our own privileges and prejudices, rethink our institutions and demand structural change.”
Outside of the immediate issues facing the state and elected leaders to do with law enforcement, public health and economic recovery, the Legislature still has outstanding issues to address. That includes a bonding bill that jumpstarts our state’s economy by making needed long-term investments in infrastructure and needed fixes to our tax law that ensure that farms and businesses are treated fairly.
On taxes, MFU supports full conformity with Section 179, which would allow farmers and small business owners to expense the full value of equipment in the tax year when it’s purchased. This issue priority gained new urgency when it came to light that an unintended consequence of last year’s tax bill was that some farmers who traded in equipment were being retroactively asked to pay taxes on the trade-in value as income.
Full conformity with Section 179 would help address this issue for farmers and others. However, the unanticipated, significant and still-developing budget pressures brought on by the pandemic make the upwards of $200 million investment in this change unlikely this year. In the House, Tax Chair Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth) has made addressing this issue—particularly for farmers and others who were charged retroactively—a top priority.
At the end of regular session, Chair Marquart proposed a tax bill that would invest in addressing retroactive tax bills by allowing full conformity for 2018 and 2019, then going forward allowing farmers and others who trade in equipment to stretch out their tax liability to match up with what they are allowed to expense under Section 179. It’s not a perfect solution, but a creative one that could be accomplished this year.
Across the country, the pandemic has brought corporate consolidation and the need for antitrust enforcement in the food and ag sector into renewed focus. Last week, four current and former executives at Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and Claxton Poultry Farms were indicted today for colluding to inflate the price of birds. Two days later, the Department of Justice (DOJ) antitrust division formally demanded information from the four largest beef packers in the U.S. This action followed a joint letter sent from 11 state attorneys general, including Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, urging Attorney General William Barr to open a formal investigation into anticompetitive practices by meat packers.
“The beef market isn’t working for producers or consumers right now—instead of a fair, competitive market, it has the hallmarks of manipulated, anti-competitive market,” Ellison said. “I joined this bipartisan coalition to ask the DOJ to ask to investigate and put an end to unfair business practices because making sure that the market is fair for both farmers and producers in Minnesota is just common sense.”
MDA announces changes in use of dicamba
Upon further review of state law and while awaiting guidance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the ruling of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals regarding dicamba products, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will continue operating under existing pesticide program authorities. According to Minnesota law, an unregistered pesticide previously registered in the state may be used following the cancellation of the registration of the pesticide.
At this time Minnesota farmers can use XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology (EPA Reg. No. 524-617), Engenia Herbicide (EPA Reg. No. 7969-345), and DuPont FeXapan with VaporGrip Technology (EPA Reg. No. 352-913) while following all federal and Minnesota label requirements. (Tavium Plus VaporGrip Technology (EPA Reg. No. 100-1623) was not part of the two-year federal registration and can still be used according to the label.) The Department does not anticipate taking enforcement action against those who continue to appropriately use these products. This may change at any time pending additional guidance from EPA.
“The Circuit Court of Appeals decision to revoke the use of these products was, unfortunately, very untimely for our farmers as many had already purchased the herbicide for this growing season,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. “Timing is critical for farmers to apply the products and our further interpretation of Minnesota law allows us to use these products.”
As a reminder, all dicamba pesticide applicators in Minnesota must follow use instructions on the product label including the timing restrictions below. Dicamba products cannot be applied to dicamba-tolerant (DT) soybeans in Minnesota if any of the following conditions has occurred. Whichever cutoff time occurs first will determine whether a person can apply a given product to DT soybeans until June 20, 2020.
Forty-five (45) days after planting: The federal labels for XtendiMax, Engenia, FeXapan, and Tavium prohibit application more than 45 days after planting.
Once the R1 growth stage begins (beginning bloom): The federal labels for XtendiMax, Engenia, and FeXapan prohibit this. The R1 stage is when at least 1 flower appears on the plant on any node on the main stem.
After the V4 growth stage: The federal label for Tavium prohibits application after the V4 growth stage.
After June 20: The Minnesota Special Local Need (SLN) label, which must be in possession of the applicator at the time of application, prohibits this for all four dicamba products. The SLN labels are available on the MDA website at mda.state.mn.us/24c
In Minnesota, all four dicamba products are “Restricted Use Pesticides” for retail sale to, and for use only by, certified applicators who have complete dicamba or auxin-specific training.
For questions, e-mail Josh Stamper at Joshua.Stamper@state.mn.us.