Each week during the Minnesota legislative session, the Minnesota Farm Bureau will highlight its work with elected officials to support our members and agriculture. While we advocate for our members on a wide variety of topics, our Board of Directors set six priority issues for the 2022 state legislative session, and our efforts to advance those issues are highlighted below.
Recap: Week of May 9-13
With less than two weeks left in the state legislative session, the Minnesota House and Senate are working through their differences in conference committees on major omnibus bills. Farm Bureau continues to work with the legislature and the administration on finding a path forward on provisions supported by our grassroots membership as negotiations continue.
Highlights from this week at the state legislature include:
Agriculture Conference Committee
The conference committee tasked with working on the Agriculture, Housing and Broadband omnibus bills met throughout the week to continue to walk through and discuss the many differences between the bills.
MFBF submitted written testimony providing our position on many of the provisions included in the bill that can be found here.
Environment Conference Committee
The conference committee tasked with finding compromises between the House and Senate Environment bill has an uphill battle in front of them. The House version seeks to spend $249.6 million in 2023, while the Senate version would spend $8.44 million with more focus on policy changes.
Minnesota Farm Bureau has continued to express opposition through written testimony to a handful of provisions in the House version of the bill including:
- Transition of the farmed Cervidae program from the Board of Animal Health to the Department of Natural Resources.
- The drainage registry information portal. This should be vetted by drainage stakeholders at the Drainage Working Group to foster mutual understanding of how the proposed registry will operate and be used. Further conversation needs to be held to determine how the registry will impact drainage system operations, particularly the maintenance of existing drainage systems.
- Financial assurance for feedlot permits. This language creates an unnecessary burden for farmers holding or seeking feedlot permits where there are current protections and incentives already in place.
There are also concerning provisions included in the House bill that related to the disposal of treated by the MPCA.
The Senate version of the Environment bill has provisions supported by Farm Bureau policy including:
- The disallowance of the enforcement of un-adopted rules by the MPCA and DNR;
- Clarifying that an Environmental Assessment Worksheet is not required for drainage repair projects when the affected waters are not listed on the public waters inventory; and
- No further antler point restrictions.
Senate Tax Bill
The Senate Tax Committee heard and the full Senate quickly passed a comprehensive tax bill by a vote of 42-22 earlier this week. The bill now heads to conference committee with the House.
The Senate position on HF 3669 includes provisions adopted in early April as part of previous tax bill: conformity to a number of federal provisions, a reduction in the state’s first tier income tax rate from 5.35 percent to 2.8 percent and the elimination of taxes on social security benefits. Provisions added to the bill include an additional $177.9 million in tax relief and $37.7 million in property tax relief.
Minnesota Farm Bureau submitted written testimony to the Tax Committee in support of multiple provisions contained in this comprehensive bill including:
there are pieces of HF 3669 as amended that Farm Bureau supports through the priority issues identified by our Board of Directors based on our grassroots policy including:
- Estate Tax Portability: Estate taxes can be a barrier to passing down farms to future generations by draining the financial resources of farmers and ranchers. At the federal level, portability of the estate tax exemption between married couples means that if the first spouse dies and the value of the estate does not require the use of all the deceased spouse’s federal exemption amount, then the amount of the unused exemption may be transferred to the surviving spouse. This enables the surviving spouse to use the deceased spouse’s unused exemption plus his or her own exemption when the surviving spouse later dies. However, Minnesota’s estate tax laws do not allow for portability. To ensure that the tax code allows for flexibility in generational transfers, MFBF supports portability of the estate tax exemption.
- Fencing Material definition: MFBF supports removing fencing material from the state sales tax by adding it to the definition of farm machinery. In light of last year’s drought, this is a timely issue that will help livestock farmers especially since this bill is retroactive.
- Agricultural Riparian Buffer Tax Credit: MFBF supports creating an agricultural riparian buffer credit. Farm land converted to buffers should not continue to be taxed as though the land is still producing income-generating crops
- Homestead Valuation: MFBF supports raising the agricultural homestead valuation limit to $2.5 million. Agricultural land values have been rising at a rapid pace and the current size of an agricultural homestead has not kept up with what is commercially viable.
MFBF will work with the Conference Committee to ensure that agriculture and our rural communities have a tax code that reflects their unique needs.