This week’s ag update from the Minnesota state capitol

Anna Boroff

Anna Boroff, MCGA Public Policy Director.

Written by Anna Boroff, MCGA Public Policy Director

I’m back after spending the last week in Washington D.C. and Phoenix on a very interesting MARL trip and another productive Commodity Classic, respectively.

While I was away, the Minnesota legislature learned that the budget surplus is now projected to be $1.89 billion, an increase of $832 million over the November forecast. That’s certainly good news as the March 20 first committee deadline approaches.

Several ag and corn-related policy items progressed last week as well. Here’s a summary:

  • Great news for ag research: The Ag Coalition bill, which establishes the agriculture research, education, extension and technology transfer board, passed out of the House Ag Policy Committee and was sent to Government Operations. This bill is also supported by the University of Minnesota and would fund ag productivity research, ag education and rapid response to plant and animal disease. The bill heads to the Senate Ag Policy Committee on Wednesday.
  • The Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) came out in support of clarifying existing law and incentives, and taking an inventory of buffers in response to Gov. Dayton’s buffer proposal made in January. MFU also wants the buffer issue to be addressed by the Drainage Work Group and report back to the 2016 legislature. We still haven’t seen an official bill or policy proposal from the Governor regarding buffers.
  • On the Bioeconomy Bill (legislation that would create incentives to make advanced biofuels from sources such as corn stalks), we’re continuing to work with House Agriculture Finance Chair Rod Hamilton and our author in the Senate, Tom Saxhaug to schedule the next round of hearings.
  • Two bills up for discussion this week: funding for the ag veterinary diagnostic lab (HF941) in the House Ag Finance Committee and the Ag Nuisance Lawsuits bill (HF582) in the House Ag Policy Committee.
  • On the federal side, the budget reconciliation process could open up sections of the farm bill. Most committees will be asked to cut some amount of discretionary spending from their budgets. There’s a good chance farm bill programs will be asked to take a cut.
  • It’s still wait-and-see when it comes to the Renewable Fuel Standard. I talked to several folks about the RFS while at Commodity Classic and nobody knows when a final number will be set and what the final number will look like. The waiting game continues…
  • Over 900,000 comments were submitted on EPA’s Waters of the United States proposal. A final rule could be released late this spring, but I’d be surprised if it’s out that soon.
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced at Commodity Classic that USDA is providing a one-time extension of the deadline to update base acres or yield history for the ARC/PLC programs. The new deadline is March 31. More details here. Be in touch with you local FSA office as soon as possible to get this taken care of.

Written by Anna Boroff, Public Policy Director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), who has been at the Minnesota state capitol throughout the current legislative session.

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