Legislative update: Buffers, budgets, BWSR and more

Anna Boroff

Anna Boroff, MCGA Senior Public Policy Director.

Written by Anna Boroff, MCGA Senior Public Policy Director

Before getting into this week’s legislative update, I’d like to personally thank all the legislators, farmer-leaders, agency staff and other leaders who attended the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) Legislative Reception on April 6. It was great to connect with so many legislators, hear from several commissioners and talk food and farming with other leaders from throughout Minnesota.

Pictures and details from the event can be seen here. Now, onto this week’s update:

Buffers
Two quick things on buffers to note this week:

  1. On Monday, the bill containing important clarifications to the buffer bill from last year’s session passed through the Senate tax committee and is cleared for action on the floor. Clarifications include the exclusion of private ditches from the buffer law.
  2. The property tax and local government finance division of the Tax Committee will look at the issue of property taxes on riparian buffers this week. The full bill is located here.

Budgets
House budget targets were released last week. No big news in the numbers, but I wanted to point out that property tax relief for farmers is still included, but remains in conference committee. Surplus funds are targeted for tax relief and transportation. Broadband funding totaling $35 million is targeted for rural Minnesota.

Comments on BWSR buffer role
The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is seeking public comments by May 4 on components of its role in the new buffer law and excessive soil loss program. You can learn more about what, specifically, BWSR is seeking here. MCGA will likely weigh in with comments, and we will keep you up to date in future legislative updates.

Ditch mowing
A bill restricting ditch mowing dropped off the House Environment committee agenda last week. It’s looking like the bill won’t come up again this session in the House, but the issue will likely be examined after session is over. On the Senate side, we are still watching similar language in a larger transportation bill closely. Even if nothing happens this year, we expect this topic to come up again next year.

Tractor safety
A bill that provides rebates to farmers who retrofit older tractors with safety equipment such as seat belts and roll bars has challenges moving forward. More details can be read in this Star Tribune story.

Federal GMO labeling
We continue to hear that the Senate is working on compromise language for a national GMO labeling law. As you know, the Senate recently defeated a bill that would have created a uniform national GMO labeling standard. Stay tuned to see if language on a compromise bill is released any time soon.

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