Legislative Update: Buffer law, Farm Bill and tax reform have a busy week

By Amanda Bilek, Minnesota Corn Growers Association senior public policy director

The Minnesota Legislature returned from the Easter/Passover break this week and action picked right back up with only six weeks left in the regular session and a lot of work left to accomplish. It was a very busy week for agriculture—not only in St. Paul, but also Washington D.C. There is a lot to cover, so I will get right to it.

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Buffer near Montevideo, MN

Following the ag community’s response, BWSR says proposed buffer penalties a mistake

Last week the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) released a proposed amendment to the Administrative Penalty Order (APO) plan for Minnesota Buffer Law implementation that would allow counties and watershed districts to assess penalties up to $500 per linear foot out of compliance with the law. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association released a statement calling the proposed amendment beyond excessive and highly unreasonable.

To follow-up its statement, MCGA issued a letter to BWSR Buffers and Soil Loss Operations Supervisor Tom Gile that outlined major concerns with both the amendment and the procedure through which the amendment was proposed.

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Hundreds attend workshops on helping farmers through stressful times

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) first-ever “Down on the Farm: Supporting Farmers in Stressful Times” workshop series recently concluded with more than 450 people from all professional backgrounds attending to learn more about how they can help farmers through stressful times.

Held at six different locations spanning the state, the goal with each session was to help rural area professionals recognize mental and emotional distress in the farming community and employ strategies that help farmers in stressful situations.

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Buffer Alternative Practices

MCGA: Proposed buffer law penalties for noncompliance are beyond excessive

The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) introduced a proposed amendment to the Administrative Penalty Order plan for Buffer Law implementation that would allow counties and watershed districts to assess penalties based on linear feet of non-compliant water body frontage. Posted on the BWSR website on April 2, comments are being requested on the proposed amendment through April 16.

Counties and watershed districts charged with enforcement of the Buffer Law would be able to choose if they would adopt this amended option for the Administrative Penalty Order.

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Ethanol Remains Under Fire – Act Now!

Thanks to farmers, President Trump and Members of Congress have been hearing a lot about how important the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) is to Minnesota farmers and rural America.

Unfortunately, the White House is still considering cutting a deal for oil refiners as soon as this coming Monday. And, in the meantime, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to take actions behind closed doors that benefit refiners at the expense of farmers.

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