Legislative Update: Section 179 gets early traction

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

The legislative session is underway in St. Paul. Although the first week was relatively quiet when it came to committee meetings, there was plenty of activity in meeting and connecting with lawmakers to discuss MCGA policy priorities for this session. You can read about our priorities in last week’s update here.

The House Taxes committee had their first meeting of session last week and first up was HF 3023, a bill authored by Taxes committee chair Paul Marquart (DFL – Dillworth) that would address changes to like-kind exchange rules. The bill would reduce the taxable portion of like-kind gains to one-fifth of their current level and spread them over five years.

Last session, the final tax bill partially conformed to Section 179 for capital equipment expensing but unforeseen consequences due to changes in like-kind exchanges rules resulted in some farmers receiving high tax bills for traded in equipment. The easiest solution is for Minnesota to fully conform to federal Section 179 and eliminate the 80-percent addback provision in Minnesota tax law. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) is part of the Invest in Minnesota coalition organized by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, which advocates for full conformity on Section 179.

Rep. Marquart acknowledged he supports full conformity on Section 179, but brought forward HF 3023 as an option to have on the table. . You can read more about the bill and the committee hearing here. Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) has introduced HF 2947, which proposes to fully conform to Section 179.

We appreciate Chair Marquart bringing this option forward as the legislature and administration await a revised February budget forecast and a supplemental budget request from the Governor, as well as negotiate tax, spending and bonding priorities. We are pleased to see this critical issue getting attention early in session.

Grain bin safety will be a topic discussed at the legislature this week. Both the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing policy and House Agriculture and Food Policy and Finance divisions will hold hearings and consider bills related to grain bin safety. On Feb. 18th, MCGA Chairman Brian Thalmann will offer short testimony during an informational hearing in the Senate ag policy committee on grain bin safety and will discuss MCGA efforts to highlight this issue among corn farmers.

A couple of bills on grain bin safety have been introduced and will be considered by the legislature. SF 3086 authored by Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake) proposes to appropriate $25,000 to University of Minnesota Extension to create a grain storage facility curriculum.  Sen. Nick Frentz (DFL-Mankato) and Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL-St. Peter) have introduced SF 3007/HF 3224, which aims to create a grant program for farm safety equipment, including grain storage.

The number of grain bin-related accidents and fatalities in the region is up significantly. MCGA, in partnership with the Red River Farm Network, is working to bring additional awareness to grain bin safety through a series of radio messages that will air February through mid-April. The goal for these on-air safety reminders is to prevent accidents from happening.

Additionally, Governor Tim Walz proclaimed February 16-22 as Grain Bin Safety Week to emphasize education and awareness to help reduce the number of preventable injuries and deaths associated with grain handling and storage. 

Be sure to follow the MCGA blog and its social channels (FacebookTwitter) throughout session for updates from the Capitol. You can also follow me on Twitter (@AjBilek).

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