Rotunda Ramblings: Mixed Reviews for Ag as Session Winds Down

After last fall’s election it was predicted by many that the House Republican Caucus would take the lead in addressing the needs and wants of production agriculture. It was also believed that Senate Democrats would take notice and increase their support for agriculture. With those thoughts, agendas were created to ride that wave.

Three categories of legislative effort were proposed: increased spending for agricultural research, agricultural education, and a rapid response disease initiative; property tax reform regarding school bond indebtedness, and regulatory reforms affecting agriculture.

As we enter the final 3 1/2 weeks of the session, the original prediction is mixed. We are now at a point in the session where some evaluation can be made as to the delivery on that agenda. Changes will take place and positions will alter, but today’s discussion is a snapshot as to how things currently stand. The outcomes are still unclear but an explanation of where the game pieces are on the board can be laid out.

Agricultural Spending, the Ask:

  1. Maintain existing base for Dept. of Agriculture (approx. $70 million), AURI ($7.286 million), and the Agri Fund, which currently funds some research and other consumer and ag recipient grant programs ($20.2 million)
  2. Increase new spending by $39 million per biennium, of which $30 million is for ongoing research initiative, $4 million for rapid response and $4.8 million for ag education and Farm Business Management, all to be included in base funding going forward

Existing House Position

  1. Reduce Agri Fund base by $5 million per biennium
  2. Provide $7.65 million total per biennium for research, rapid response and education, of which $4.2 million per year continues forward in the base
  3. Reduce AURI $2 million per biennium
  4. Adds 35 Full Time Equivalent employees to Dept. of Agriculture base

Existing Senate Position

  1. Reduce Agri Fund by $6 million per biennium
  2. Provide $17 million total per biennium for research ($12 million), rapid response ($4 million), and ag education and FBM ($3 million), of which $3.5 million per year continues forward in the base
  3. Adds 30 full-time equivalent employees to Dept. of Agriculture

Property Tax Reform, the Ask:

  1. Address excess burden of school bond referendums on farmland

Existing House position

  1. Provide approximately $50 million per year of buy down from the general fund as a 50 percent credit against school bond indebtedness on all ag property except the house, garage, and one acre

Existing Senate position

  1. Yet to be developed, Tax bill has not advanced, however, the provision adopted by the House has been heard in committee and was held over for possible inclusion in the tax bill

Regulatory Reform, the Ask:

1. Addition of livestock facilities over 1,000 animal units to be covered under state’s Ag Nuisance Lawsuit Liability law

Final Action to date by House

  1. None- two committee hearings, stalled in environment committee

Final Action to date in Senate

  1. None- no hearings

2. Exempt all private farm truck wash facilities for biosecurity purposes from need to obtain commercial / industrial by-product permit

Final action to date in House

  1. Amended version included in omnibus environment bill, exempts only those under 100,000 gallon water usage from permit, eliminates the requirement to have class 4 licensed operators.

Final action to date in Senate

  1. No action

3. Increase the threshold from 1 million to 2 million gallons requirement for DNR Groundwater usage permit

No action in either body

4. Change powers and membership of MPCA Citizens Board

Final action to date in House

  1. Included in omnibus environment bill

Final action in Senate

  1. None

5. Buffers

Final action to date in House

  1. Governor’s bill heard in House Environment committee, no action taken
  2. $1 million included in omnibus environment bill for SWCD’s, mentioned as a placeholder for continued discussion of issue
  3. Continued public discussion

Final action to date in Senate

  1. Governor’s bill heard in Environment Policy committee, stalled in Ag committee
    No further action and no public discussion