Talk to your legislators this week! State policymakers are making headway at the capitol on several significant issues. But before many of the major decisions are made, legislators will take a one-week break beginning April 10 to meet with local constituents and recharge.
The legislative Spring Break is the perfect time for Minnesota’s farmers to make their voices heard. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) urges members and others from rural Minnesota to contact state lawmakers and express their views about a few key issues that need to be resolved in the closing weeks of the 2017 legislative session.
Provisions to change the controversial buffer law are included in the omnibus environmental budget bill that was recently passed out of the House and Senate but must still proceed through conference committees before being sent to the Governor.
Changes include revising the implementation date to Nov. 1, 2018 for buffers or alternative water-quality practices, allowing the needed time for local officials to get ready and for farmers to comply. It would also clarify that 50-foot buffers are only needed on public waters classified as shore land and those lacking that designation would only require 16.5-foot buffers. The change could affect about 48,000 miles of buffers.
MCGA is urging lawmakers and the Governor to clarify the required buffer set-backs, push back the implementation date for one year to give local authorities and farmers time to comply, plus address the need for some compensation for the costs associated with adding buffers and losing productive farm land.
Farm Property Taxes
Farm property taxes have been rising more than other property classes due to the impact of school levies for new and refurbished schools. Reductions in agriculture property taxes are contained in the House and Senate tax bills and in the Governor’s proposed budget. The differences in each budget proposal related to the overall level of tax relief are significant, which means the House, Senate and Governor will all have to compromise so that a final tax bill can become law.
Even though some tax relief appears to be coming, farmers still need to impress on legislators that farm property tax relief is needed this year and should not be short-changed. There are many other interests competing with farmers for the same tax dollars, so farmers cannot sit back and assume that needed farm property tax relief will just automatically happen.
Farmers also know the importance of having adequate farm-to-market roads and bridges to support the economy of rural Minnesota, and the Governor and legislators have had a difficult time developing a long-term funding package for transportation needs. If farmers and rural residents urge policymakers to work together in light of the needs that exist throughout Minnesota, the state could finally adopt a viable transportation plan this year and ensure Greater Minnesota receives an equitable share of transportation funding.
During the legislative Spring Break, it is important to speak with legislators about the topics that are important to farmers and agriculture either via an email, phone call or over a cup of coffee. These issues not only matter for farmers, but also for the future of our rural communities and the economy of Greater Minnesota. Rural voices do matter and our voice needs to be heard by lawmakers!