Poppe: Bill to compensate farmers gaining support

Published 4:39 pm Saturday, March 22, 2014

Minnesota Agriculture Week takes place from Sunday through Saturday, March 29, in conjunction with National Agriculture Day on Tuesday.

It is my pleasure to ask you to join me in recognizing the important contributions farmers, ranchers, livestock producers and agri-businesses make to our great state.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Minnesota ranks fifth nationally in total agriculture production and fourth in agricultural exports, generating approximately $75 billion each year for our economy and employing over 300,000 Minnesotans. Those numbers illustrate the significant role agriculture plays in our state’s economic health.

Email newsletter signup

Minnesotans understand that when agriculture does well, we all do well. That’s why the DFL-led Legislature continues to take serious steps to strengthen our agriculture sector right now and into the future.

Last year, we provided new resources for the AGRI Fund that are helping to expand the Farm-to-School program, provide grants for the start-up, transition, and expansion of family farm livestock operations, assist with the start-up of any farm, and fund research on conventional and cover crops.

Thanks to an extension of the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act, banks and other creditors are required to offer mediation to farmers before proceeding with foreclosure, repossession, cancellation of contract, or collection of judgment through 2016.

Lawmakers also boosted resources for the Department of Agriculture, created an agriculture water quality certainty program, and provided funding for pollinator habitat restoration.

This year, the Legislature’s commitment to a thriving agriculture sector remains strong.

On Friday, lawmakers from both the House and Senate approved a significant tax cut package that benefits over one million middle class Minnesotans, including our family farmers.

Starting next year, about 650,000 families will save an average of $115 per year thanks to the elimination of the “marriage penalty” for standard deductions. The bill also expands the Working Family Credit, which will provide an average tax cut of $146 for over 330,000 Minnesotans earning less than $50,000 per year, with some working families benefiting this year and more next year. New homeowners, students and parents paying for college and paying off loans, and teachers with classroom expenses stand to benefit as well.

We also repealed several business-to-business taxes, including a tax on farm equipment repairs, telecommunications equipment, and warehousing services, which was set to go into effect on April 1.

There is strong bipartisan interest among lawmakers to pass a second tax cut bill this year with targeted relief for farmers hit with higher property taxes due to soaring land values. By enhancing the market value credit for homesteaded farms, we can provide $15 million in immediate property tax relief to more than 75,000 family farms, with an average family farmer in Minnesota receiving a total of $490 in property tax relief.

In addition, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are supporting a bill I’m authoring to compensate farmers for costs incurred when harvesting and transferring surplus crops to Minnesota food shelves. That bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday and is expected to be included in a supplemental budget proposal for consideration by the entire House of Representatives.

These are the kinds of steps lawmakers should take to expand prosperity in our rural communities and ensure a thriving agriculture sector. All signs show that we are poised to build on the progress Minnesota continues to make.