Legislators from across Minnesota reconvened in St. Paul Tuesday for the start of the 2018 legislative session. While it was once thought this year’s session would be quiet due to upcoming elections, important issues like tax conformity are now taking center stage for what will be another eventful few months.
The Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) and its grower leaders identified the following as its legislative priorities for the 2018 session:
Enacting State tax reform and federal conformity: The passage of federal tax reform in December 2017 presents an opportunity for Minnesota to update its state tax code, conform to federal provisions that would benefit agriculture and enact additional tax reform that would provide tax relief for agriculture. MCGA will focus on the following:
- MCGA will be taking a lead role to pass legislation that provides property tax relief to farm land subject to Minnesota’s Buffer law. MCGA and its grower leaders worked with legislators last year to ensure the Buffer Law allows farmers additional time and flexibility to install the vegetative buffer or select an alternative practice for compliance. During the 2018 legislative session, a priority will be to provide tax relief for farm land no longer in production.
- Section 179 of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased expensing and exchange limits on capital equipment, as well as bonus depreciation on both new and old property. Legislators will tackle how they will conform to that law, potentially impacting growers.
Responding to water quality and environmental concerns: Several state agencies are currently in the process of formulating or adopting regulations that will have an impact on agriculture, including the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s proposed nitrogen fertilizer rule, Board of Water and Soil Resources’ updates to the soil loss rule and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s proposed increased water permitting fees. It is anticipated the Legislature will be having discussions around these proposed regulations, responding to legislation aimed at the regulations, and discussing other legislative proposals on water and environment topics.
MCGA will communicate with legislators about our sustainability initiatives, research investments and farmer-led Innovation Grants to demonstrate our sustainability commitment in action and respond to legislative proposals.
Ensuring flexibility in potential ditch mowing restrictions: The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MN DOT) has proposed additional regulations and permitting requirements for the mowing of state roadway right-of-ways. A stakeholder group has been meeting with MN DOT since the Legislature adjourned in 2017 to look for consensus among impacted parties. A final report from the group has been submitted to MN DOT, which will then put forward a proposal for 2018. MCGA will help support efforts to ensure farmers who perform the service of mowing and maintaining roadside ditches are supported.
Securing additional transportation investments: The 2017 legislative session made one of the largest transportation investments in almost a decade, mostly focused on road and bridge infrastructure. In 2018, legislative leadership has indicated an opportunity to appropriate more tax funding towards road and bridge infrastructure, and a potential capital investment bill provides another opportunity to address transportation needs in rural communities. MCGA will monitor the issue and voice support for investment directed to rural communities.
Improving health care choice and affordability for farmers: While steps taken by the Legislature in 2017 preserved the individual health care market and provided short-term relief on health care premiums, farmers still need greater choice, reasonable benefits and fair pricing when it comes to health insurance. The formation of agricultural-based health care cooperatives in 2017 also provided farmers with another option in health care access. Although health insurance reforms at the federal level were unsuccessful in 2017, it is anticipated that some health insurance reforms at the state level might surface this legislative session.
Be sure to follow the MCGA blog and its social channels (Facebook, Twitter) throughout session for updates from the Capitol. You can also follow MCGA Senior Public Policy Director Amanda Bilek on Twitter (@AjBilek).