Legislative Update: Session hits home stretch, farm bill discussions heat up

MN State Capitol

There is less than a week to go at the Minnesota Legislature and still a lot of work to do finalize agreements on major pieces of legislation. Meanwhile out in Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives will debate and consider the farm bill. There are a lot of decisions under consideration in both St. Paul and Washington that will impact agriculture.

Following the conclusion of the legislative session we will have a complete run down for you on what got done that impacts agriculture, but here is a quick update as we head into the final days.

Taxes

The House and Senate Tax Conference Committee finalized their agreement on HF 4385. Governor Dayton has stated he wants an agreement on one-time emergency school funding before he would sign a tax bill, so negotiations between the Governor and legislative leaders will be ongoing even as the House and Senate take up the conference committee report. There are a few provisions that have been included in the conference committee report that the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) supports and hope they are included in the final agreement with the Governor:

  • Full federal conformity on Section 179, accelerated deprecation up to $1 million and applicable in the 2018 tax year
  • Prohibiting municipalities from implementing excise taxes on specific foods, beverages and food containers
  • Clarifying homestead status for ownership and operating entities, but language added adds a restriction requiring that the land entity and the operating entity have matching ownership
  • Establish a school property tax working group to evaluate the impact of school capital investments on farmland property taxes, simplify school levies and coordinate interactions with state general levy

Buffer Property Tax Credit

Last week MCGA and 14 other agriculture groups sent a letter to Governor Dayton and legislative leaders urging enactment this session of the annual $50 per acre property tax credit for ag land required to establish vegetative buffers. HF 4395/SF 3960 proposes to pay for the property tax credit using the Clean Water Fund. Last week’s efforts were successful in elevating this issue with legislators, legislative leadership and the Governor, and we are aiming to make sure the buffer property tax credit is included in the end of session negotiations. We intend to keep the pressure up as we head into the final days.

Supplemental Budget and Bonding

The House and Senate conference committee on SF 3656 is still working to come to a unified legislative position on several supplemental spending and policy areas covering most areas of the state budget. As of Tuesday, agreements have been reached on agriculture, environment, transportation and higher education, but K12 education, health and human services, jobs and economic development and judiciary are still being worked out. Once the House and Senate agree on a unified legislative position, leaders will begin negotiating with the Governor.

The House and Senate are also advancing bonding bills that aim to provide critical capital investment upgrades to public infrastructure. Each bill has money dedicated for transportation, including local roads and bridges.

Farm Bill

This week the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take up H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, aka the farm bill. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) has been busy securing republican votes in advance of full consideration by the House. House democrats are not expected to vote in favor of the bill following a dispute on nutrition program reforms and increased work and training requirements for program recipients.

A slew of amendments have been offered and the House Rules Committee will determine which amendments are in order and will be offered during general debate on the bill. Several proposed amendments, if adopted, would be detrimental to crop insurance and commodity and conservation programs. A coalition, led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, of more than 300 agricultural groups, including MCGA, sent a letter to Congress urging defeat of amendments “that could critically hurt farm families during House floor consideration of the bill.”

In the lead up to farm bill reauthorization, MCGA has consistently advocated to protect crop insurance, strengthen PLC/ARC, increase Conservation Reserve Program acres and maintain funding for Market Access and Foreign Market Development programs. MCGA will continue to advocate for those priorities as the farm bill reauthorization process proceeds.

If you have a question about any of the above or any policy-related issued, please contact Amanda Bilek at abilek@mncorn.org

Did you like this article?

Share this post with your friends!