Several Minnesota Soybean Growers Association directors took to St. Paul Thursday to discuss a bevy of issues with legislators from across the state.
Among the hot topics discussed were agriculture land taxes, which stalled in last year’s House File 848 omnibus bill. Since the House and Senate reformed the Tax Conference Committee from last year, the House agriculture property tax proposal that would pay for one-half of agricultural share of annual payments for school debt bonds is still being considered.
Sen. Gary Dahms (R) District 16 said the proposed agricultural land taxes bill being brought forward by agricultural groups is the first look at land taxes that didn’t hinder rural communities’ ability to build or remodel schools, but still provided relief to landowners, namely farmers, who because of high land values have been left financing the major bulk of rural school referendums.
“I don’t have to tell you how important it is we get support to give farmers relief from these school referendums,” said MSGA Director George Goblish, who farms near Vesta, Minn. “We understand rural communities need to upgrade and build schools, but right now, farmers are paying a much higher percentage of these referendums, and that is leaving a burden on those farmers.”
Other topics discussed were the buffer bill, biodiesel and transportation. Nine MSGA directors and three staff attended the Senate Environment and Energy Committee Thursday, where the buffer bill passed out of committee.
“I felt we were quite successful today,” said MSGA President Paul Freeman. “With the buffers we’ve said for the last year that things need to change. The process is working and the language is getting cleaned up. The Senate committee passed the buffer amendment through today, which was good. People need to keep in mind though, that a lot of things can happen through the processes yet. You truly don’t know the outcome of these bills until the end of session.”
For transportation, MSGA directors sought support for funding to improve rural roads and bridges and asked legislators to support increasing the weight limits for Minnesota roads.
“At the very least, it would be nice if our limits matched those of neighboring states,” Goblish told staff for Sen. Anne Rest (DFL) District 45. “Right now, for example, I haul grain into Iowa but can’t take a very heavy load because what is allowed in Iowa is too heavy in Minnesota. We need to be more in line with our neighbors.”
Freeman credited MSGA directors with maintaining relationships with legislators throughout the year.
“All the visits we had today were well received,” he said. “Part of that is we work hard maintaining the context through the year and that helped make for productive visits.”
Freeman said that he did notice the short session really curbed the appetite of legislators to take up new issues. With the short session and upcoming elections this fall, much work will still be needed down the road.
After the hill visits, MSGA directors hosted legislators and other ag leaders for a reception at the Minnesota History Center. Monsanto, Biosythetic Technologies and Renville County Corn and Soybean Growers Association sponsored the legislative reception.