Check out what these 4th graders asked a Minnesota corn farmer

John Mages

John Mages

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) proudly participates in Provider Pals, a unique program that connects farmers with classrooms throughout the state, especially in non-farming, urban areas.

John Mages farms in Belgrade and served as MCGA President in 2011-12. Now that John is retired from the MCGA board of directors, he participates in Provider Pals as a way to continue telling the story of Minnesota corn farmers to the next generation of consumers and community leaders.

On Friday, John will visit Mrs. Hall’s fourth-grade class at Lake Nokomis Community School in Minneapolis. He’ll talk about what he does each and every day as a farmer to grow food, feed, fiber and fuel for the entire world, all while taking care of our land, soil and water resources.

To prepare for the visit,  John has been communicating with the class via video messages, letters and email. Think of John and the class as modern-day pen pals with a farming focus.

Judging by the many letters John has received before his visit, the main thing Mrs. Hall’s students want to know is what kind of farmer John is. They’re also curious about where he went to school and what he likes best about farming. Some of the questions and observations from the kids also make you smile.

Here are a few examples:

letters-page-003

 

We agree with Sam. It’s definitely cool to raise pigs and cows!

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“Lives on a farm in North Dakota in the middle of nowhere.” Hehe.

letters-page-019

Waking up early isn’t always fun, but it’s what farmers do!

letters-page-017

Yes, farming is both “cool” and “tiring.” It’s also very rewarding.

Thank you, John Mages and all the farmers who participate in Provider Pals, for taking the time to bring a small piece of your farm to the big city and into the classroom. Thank you to teachers like Mrs. Hall at Lake Nokomis Community School for opening your classroom doors and giving your students an opportunity to learn a little bit more about where their food comes from and what life is like on the farm.

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Federal legislative update: RFS, TPA and conservation compliance

Anna Boroff

Anna Boroff, MCGA Public Policy Director.

Yesterday I posted an ag and corn-focused update from the recently completed Minnesota legislative session. You can read that post here to get caught up on buffer legislation, the bioeconomy bill, ag research funding and other state legislation.

Today, I’d like to focus on a couple of federal items:

Renewable Volume Obligations
The deadline is June 1 for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) per the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). In other words, the EPA has until June 1 to release their numbers for the amount of ethanol that will be blended into our fuel supply as called for in the RFS (legislation passed in 2005 and modified in 2007 that sets targets how much ethanol to blend in our country’s gasoline supply).

I’m hearing that because 2014 is already over (EPA missed the 2014 deadline and didn’t bother releasing a number), EPA will base that year’s number on actual production. For 2015, the number likely will be based on biofuels production through June 1 and projected through the rest of the year.

The number to watch is 2016. If EPA cuts the target amount of ethanol to blend in 2016, it means less cleaner burning, renewable homegrow biofuels in our fuel supply. That’d be bad news for corn farmers, bad news for consumers and bad news for everyone.

I know this RFS battle has been going on for a long time. I also know it can be a bit confusing with all the acronyms, missed deadlines and numbers. If you need a quick refresher on what the RFS is and what this fight has been about, click here.

Trade Promotion Authority
Look for a vote in the Senate on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) before the end of the week. If you need a refresher on what TPA is and why it’s important to farmers, the National Corn Growers Website is a great resource.

TPA is a big deal. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to reach out to your congressman or senator and ask them to pass TPA as soon as possible.

Reminder to certify
If you haven’t already, make sure you certify conservation compliance with your local USDA office by June 1! The 2014 Farm Bill requires form AD-1026 to be on file for farmers to remain eligible for crop insurance support.

More information on certifying can be read here. Click here to find contact information for your local USDA Service Center.

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Legislative summary: Will Gov. Dayton veto agriculture and environment bill?

Anna Boroff

Anna Boroff, MCGA Public Policy Director.

Written by Anna Boroff
Minnesota Corn Growers Association Policy Director

After a whirlwind end to the legislative session, we’re all left to wonder what bills Gov. Dayton will veto and when he will call a special session.

The Omnibus Environment and Agriculture Finance Bill contains many items important to Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) members. Here is a summary of those items, but remember, Gov. Dayton might veto the bill, which would send us back to the drawing board during a special session.

The governor has until Saturday to veto. Don’t be surprised if he makes a decision one way or the other sometime on Friday.

Buffers
Full details on the buffer legislation can be read in this post from earlier in the week. I encourage everyone to read it. In addition to that post, there are two other things you should know about the buffer legislation:

  • The funding for SWCDs was in the Legacy bill, which did not pass the Senate. However, Governor Dayton has stated that a Legacy bill should be part of a special session.
  • This Star Tribune story about the DNR having enforcement authority in the new buffer language is wrong. Enforcement will be handled locally, not by the DNR.

Agriculture productivity research
This priority, which provides funding for ag research, rapid response and education, receives $13 million in fiscal years 2016-17 and $17 million in fiscal years 2018-19. All funding will go through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), which must consult with an advisory panel that includes MCGA before awarding funding.

Bioeconomy bill
We’re off to a great start with this program. Funding levels are $500,000 for fiscal year 2016 and $1.5 million in fiscal year 2017. Funding will come from the repurposing of AGRI funds to be spent on production incentives. Even better news is that there will be base funding for the Bioeconomy program in future years. Policy language in the bill puts a cap of $3 million on sugar-based products, $6 million on cellulosic projects and $150,000 per project for biomass thermal, meaning that we can focus on getting additional funding for the program in later years without having to make policy changes.

MPCA Citizen’s Board reform
The citizen’s board is gone. However, this is one of the main hangups as the governor considers whether to veto the entire bill. In today’s Star Tribune, letter writers were out in full force bemoaning the loss of the board.

Ag nuisance lawsuit reform
A study on the impact of ag nuisance lawsuits on the livestock and poultry industry is due to the legislature by February of 2016.

Fertilizer research and education
The 40 cent fee, along with an inspection fee that was raised from 30 to 39 cents, used to fund the Agriculture Fertilizer Research and Education Council (AFREC) now goes into a new agriculture fertilizer account at MDA. Of these funds, the MDA commissioner is allowed to use $80,000 for fiscal and administrative costs and to recover indirect costs. The rest of the funds are directed to be used on research and education.

Irrigation
Farmers applying for a groundwater permit no longer have to do their own inventory of existing wells in the area. Agencies (like the Minnesota Department of Health) already have this information, so it isn’t necessary. If there is a well interference claim, it must be dismissed if the well is sealed prior to investigating the complaint. The DNR will also issue a report to the legislature with recommendations and thresholds for negative impacts of irrigation to surface waters, including groundwater appropriations (irrigation). This report will include input from stakeholders, including agriculture.

Taxes
Unfortunately, the governor and legislative leaders could not come together and pass a tax bill. This is very disappointing to farmers, since there were important agriculture property tax relief objectives contained in tax bills. Hopefully these provisions are re-visited when the legislature returns next year (I doubt they will be addressed in the upcoming special session).

Transportation
With the exception of a “lights on” bill to keep MNDOT funded for the next two years, major transportation funding and changes were left for next session.Not included in the bill were penalties for mowing ditches before Aug. 1 that you may have heard rumblings about.

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Ethanol update: Increasing efficiency, ethanol in boat motors and new billboards

Ethanol chart

A new study shows the increased efficiency of ethanol production. Graphic courtesy of the U.S. EIA.

Every week, we’ll bring you the latest news on and notes on ethanol and biofuels from Minnesota and throughout the country. This week’s update covers the growing efficiency of ethanol production, fuels seminars that focus on ethanol and using ethanol in marine engines.

Efficiency increasing
A new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that corn ethanol yields continue to improve. “As the industry has grown, it has become more efficient, using fewer bushels of corn to produce a gallon of ethanol,” the report states.

Improved processing technology and better enzymes and yeast strains are two factors that have led to the increased output. Demand for ethanol is also growing as an octane (i.e. power) booster in gasoline. The full report is available here.

Clean air campaign in St. Paul
The American Lung Association of Minnesota and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association have teamed up to showcase the clean-air benefits of ethanol in St. Paul. A new ethanol billboard recently went up along the Lafayette Bridge outside of the St. Paul Saints new stadium. The Union Station and Robert St. stops on the light rail’s green line also feature ethanol posters like the one below.

Unon station

Fuels seminars cover ethanol
In an effort to bring the facts about ethanol and biofuels to auto dealers and mechanics, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association has sponsored a series of fuels seminars in the Twin Cities region.

Here is a photo of Hoon Ge from MEG Corp, a leading fuel consulting company, talking ethanol and engine performance at one of the sessions in Minnetonka last week.

Fuels Seminar_Hoon

 

Ethanol and marine engines
Writing in “Ethanol Producer” magazine, Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen shoots down some myths and misinformation about using ethanol in boat motors and other marine engines as summer approaches.

Dinneen writes:

All boaters must know that E10 (10 percent ethanol, 90 percent gasoline, the standard blend of regular unleaded fuel) can safely be used in their marine engines. Oftentimes marine publications will exaggerate concerns about E15 marine use to vilify all ethanol blends; but E15 is not approved for use in these engines. However, E10 is perfectly fine for marine engines. It doesn’t matter whether their boat has a two-stroke or four-stroke engine, an in-board or out-board motor, or a built-in or portable fuel tank.

The complete column can be read here. Stay safe on the waters this summer!

Where to find higher ethanol blends
If you’re wondering where you can fill up with E15, E85 or other higher ethanol blends, go to www.mnfuels.com for a map and list of stations. You can also download the Minnesota Biofuels Association station locator app.

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Foul poles at new Saints stadium symbolize corn and baseball partnership

Saints Foul Pole

The foul poles at new CHS Field in St. Paul feature an original corn/baseball design.

The St. Paul Saints and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) have teamed up to make the foul poles at the new CHS Field in Lowertown St. Paul the coolest in all of baseball.

Both foul poles at the new stadium feature an original design that merges corn with baseball. Since CHS Field is being heralded as “farm field meets baseball field,” it’s only fitting that the stadium’s foul poles feature corn, Minnesota’s most widely grown crop that is used to feed the world, fuel our vehicles and create thousands of consumer products, with a baseball bat, a symbol of America’s pastime.

“We wanted to do something unique to connect with an urban, non-farming audience,” said Noah Hultgren, a farmer in Raymond, Minn., and First Vice President of MCGA. “Just about everything about the Saints is unique. We felt it was only fitting that the foul poles at their new stadium captured the importance of both corn farming and baseball to our great state.”

Saints Foul Pole 2MCGA signage is also featured on the outfield walls. At 25 of the 50 Saints home games, the world’s largest game of corn toss will be played between innings. MCGA will also be giving away mini bats to the first 1,000 fans who attend the Saints game on Sunday, July 26.

Outside of the stadium, two new billboards promoting the clean-air benefits of ethanol and the “Minnesota Farm Team” – an outreach effort to highlight the conservation efforts of Minnesota corn farmers – are visible along the Lafayette Bridge. The Union Station and Robert Street Light Rail Green Line stops also feature posters reminding riders of the clean-air benefits of ethanol made from locally-grown corn.

The clean-air benefits of homegrown ethanol and the conservation efforts of Minnesota’s corn farmers fit in well around eco-friendly CHS Field, which was named the greenest ballpark in American by Ryan Companies U.S.

Minnesota’s corn farmers look forward to connecting with Saints fans both inside and outside of CHS Field this season.

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Here are details on the newly passed buffer amendment

 

A ditch buffer strip in southern Minnesota.

A ditch buffer strip in southern Minnesota.

As the Minnesota legislative session dragged into late into Sunday night and early Monday morning, the Environment and Agriculture Committee again adopted language on the buffer issue. The amendment, basically, calls for the enforcement of existing buffer laws on a timeline for adoption and includes a fine for noncompliance.

The final omnibus Environment/Ag bill is awaiting final approval by the House and Senate, then goes to the Governor’s office for signature.

Provisions in the amendment include:

  • By November of 2018, buffers of 16.5 feet must be installed on all public ditches.
  • By November 2017, counties and municipalities must ensure that all public shorelands have an average buffer of 50 feet and a minimum of 30 feet.
  • Alternative practices that offer comparable protection are allowed.
  • Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) must promote and assist landowners in installing buffers and work with landowners in finding financial and other resources.
  • Farmers who don’t comply could face fines up to $500 and orders for corrective action.
  • The amendment also contains reporting and progress updates for agencies, counties and municipalities to measure buffer progress.
  • Legacy funds were also added in another bill to help SWCDs work with landowners on buffers.

You can read the entire Environment and Agriculture conference committee report here. Buffer language starts at item 136.14.

MinnesotaCornerstone.com will have more information on the buffer amendment and other legislative priorities of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association throughout the week.

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Free racing! Ethanol-themed “Tasseldega Nights” returns to Elko Speedway on June 6

2015 ElkoSpdwy-FB Event Cover

Minnesota’s corn farmers are bringing their ethanol-fueled free racing promotion back to Elko Speedway this summer. On June 6, fans receive free admission to Elko Speedway as part of “Tasseldega Nights,” presented by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA).

Gates open at 5 p.m. and all the action kicks off at 6 p.m.  In addition to some of the best auto racing in the Midwest, fans at the track will have an opportunity to learn more about clean, renewable and homegrown ethanol from Minnesota corn farmers. If you’re looking for more fun in addition to racing, MCGA has lined up the following Tasseldega Nights activities:

  • Racecar simulator. You’ll feel like you’re behind the wheel of an actual ethanol-powered stock car when you climb into this racing simulator.
  • The Biofuels Mobile Education Center. Get an up-close look at the positive impact of ethanol and Minnesota-made biofuels by stepping inside this 45-foot long interactive trailer.
  • Sit in a real race car. Jonathan Olmscheid races at tracks throughout Minnesota using ethanol to power his car. Jonathan will have his ethanol racer out so kids can sit behind the wheel and take pictures.
  • Win discounted fuel. The American Lung Association of Minnesota’s Clean Air Choice team will be on hand, talking with fans about the clean-air benefits of ethanol and giving away discount coupons to fill up with ethanol-blended fuels at local service stations.
  • Supermileage vehicles. These funky little go-kart type vehicles run on E85 and are designed to travel long distances on a single gallon of fuel. Braham High School will be showing off their E85 Supermileage cars during the races.
  • Other corn-themed giveaways. MCGA will be handing out beads, launching free T-shirts into the crowd, giving away American Ethanol flags and can koozies and talking with people about clean, renewable and homegrown ethanol.
  • Ted Tassel. MCGA’s life-sized and energetic mascot, Ted Tassel, will be roaming the grounds in search of high-fives and selfies.

Once the racing is finished, stick around for a free showing of “Fast and Furious 7″ at Elko’s drive-in theater. Elko Speedway is located about 15 minutes south of the Twin Cities.

If you’re planning on attending “Tasseldega Night” on June 6, the only thing you have to do is show up to the track, come inside, and have a good time. There is no need to sign up or get any sort of pass before the event.

For more information on “Tasseldega Nights” and Elko Speedway, visit www.elkospeedway.com. For more information on MCGA, go to www.mncorn.org.

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27th Supermileage Challenge featured 17 E85 cars (and 1 was painted like a corn cob)

Supermileage -- Stewartville corn

Hosanna Biffert (left) and Amelia Welter turned heads at the 2015 Supermileage Challenge earlier this week with their E85 car painted like a corn cob. This was the first time Biffert and Welter have participated in Supermileage Challenge, held annually at Brainerd International Raceway and sponsored, in part, by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

“We liked the idea behind ethanol and corn,” Biffert said. “We wanted to show our support for corn, so we got the frame built and repainted it like a corn cob.”

A total of 48 schools participated this year, braving the rain and cold to see who could travel the longest distance on a single gallon of fuel. Click here for a more in-depth summary of what the Supermileage Challenge is all about.

There were 17 cars in the E85 class this year and we have pictures of most of them below. Alden-Conger High School took first in the E85 class with 565 miles-per-gallon (mpg). Second went to Eden Prairie with 226 mpg. Henning clocked in with 221 mpg to take third.

Winners in other classes were as follows:

  • Electric — Braham (6,645 mpg)
  • Exhibition — Birchwood High School (Wis.) (454 mpg)
  • Experimental — Alden-Conger (379 mpg)
  • Modified — Alden-Conger (961 mpg)
  • Stock — St. Michael-Albertville (403 mpg)

THANK YOU to all of the students who put in a lot of hard work to get their cars up and running for Supermileage this year. This was the 27th annual Supermileage Challenge and Minnesota’s corn farmers have supported the event for 26 of those years. It’s a great way to connect with the next generation of drivers and “gearheads” about ethanol, and help students improve problem-solving and engineering skills while participating in a meaningful competition.

Here are photos from the two days of competition. Unless noted, all cars pictured are from the E85 class.

The team from Litchfield High School knows that "Ethanol Performs."

The team from Litchfield High School knows that “Ethanol Performs.”

Aaron Larson from Henning trying to stay dry as he heads to the track.

Aaron Larson from Henning trying to stay dry as he heads to the track.

The team from Braham High School gets in some last-minute work before hitting the track.

The team from Braham High School gets in some last-minute work before hitting the track.

The Staples-Motley E85 car had a really unique design.

The Staples-Motley E85 car had a really unique design.

Eden Prairie took second place in the E85 class.

Eden Prairie took second place in the E85 class.

Fresh off setting records at the Shell-Eco marathon in Detroit, the team from Alden-Conger won the E85 division in Brainerd.

Fresh off setting records at the Shell-Eco marathon in Detroit, the team from Alden-Conger won the E85 division in Brainerd.

Christopher Schell waiting for his teammates from Lewiston-Altura before making their run.

Christopher Schell waiting for his teammates from Lewiston-Altura before making their run.

The Stewartville corn cob car heads down the track.

The Stewartville corn cob car heads down the track.

The team from Glencoe-Silver Lake took time for a picture while waiting for their turn to run.

The team from Glencoe-Silver Lake took time for a picture while waiting for their turn to run.

In addition an E85 powered car, the team from Wayzata had radios!

In addition an E85 powered car, the team from Wayzata had radios!

The team from Eden Prairie takes off on a run that earned them second place in the E85 class.

The team from Eden Prairie takes off on a run that earned them second place in the E85 class.

Supermileage -- Alden-Conger 2

The Alden-Conger modified team took first with 1114 mpg.

The Alden-Conger modified team took first with 961 mpg.

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Ethanol update: E15, RFS, an ethanol pioneer and higher “renewable content”

ethanolplantThere’s a lot happening in the world of ethanol and biofuels these days. Whether it’s new developments in the battle to maintain a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) or the growing popularity of E15, there’s no shortage of news about ethanol.

In order to cover as much of it as we can and keep corn farmers up to date, we here at MinnesotaCornerstone.com plan to do regular “Ethanol Update” posts to highlight the most newsworthy ethanol items from the previous week.

E15 on the rise
The numbers are in for the first quarter of 2015: Minnesotans filled up with 510,021 gallons of E15. That’s nearly double the amount of E15 sold during the first quarter of last year. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association was part of a broad coalition that brought E15, a blend of 15 percent homegrown ethanol and 85 percent gasoline, to Minnesota in the fall of 2013.

There are currently 18 stations dispensing E15. That number is expected to increase to 30 stations int he coming months.

Klobuchar and Franken stand up for the RFS
A group of U.S. senators that included Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken is urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to keep the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) strong. The RFS sets targets for the amount of clean, renewable and homegrown ethanol to blend into gasoline.

After numerous delays in setting renewable volume obligations (RVOs) through the RFS for 2013 and 2014, EPA has committed to releasing 2015 RVOs by June 1. The delays have cost the biofuels industry billions and come at a time when low corn prices are putting the squeeze on many farm families.

Dale Tolifson featured
MCGA board member and Benson farmer Dale Tolifson is featured in the latest edition of “Ethanol Today” magazine. In his own words, Dale shares his family history in farming and how he and many others in the area helped build an ethanol plant in Benson that’s helped the community thrive.

“A lot of meetings, a lot of people to talk to,” Dale writes. “Sometimes it’s had to sell somebody else on it when it was all new to us, and we were trying to sell ourselves on it. We finally go the money raised, and then we started building, I think it was ’94 and it went into operation in ’96.”

Be sure to read the entire piece here. Thank you, Dale, for being an ethanol pioneer in Minnesota!

Which side will EPA choose?
Fuels America has produced a new video out highlighting the benefits of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to not cave into the oil industry’s demands to weaken the RFS. Watch the video below.

 

 

Higher “renewable content”
This is an interesting read about the growing popularity of fuels with “high renewable content,” i.e., any fuel that contains more than the standard 10 percent ethanol blend. Jim Lane writes:

In Minnesota, retail owners are moving away from a branded oil contract into the independent brand of Minnoco.  MINNOCO (Minnesota Independent Oil Company) is a brand of gasoline developed for the members of the Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association by the members of the MSSA.

“With Minnoco, I’m able to offer E15 as a more competitive fuel to my customers at a much lower price vs. regular,” explained Rick Bohnen, president of Minnoco and owner of Penn Minnoco. “This is a better business model for me because it significantly reduces my operational costs vs. branded fuels and I’m able to pass the savings on to consumers.”

Where to find higher ethanol blends
If you’re wondering where you can fill up with E15, E85 or other higher ethanol blends, go to www.mnfuels.com for a map and list of stations. You can also download the Minnesota Biofuels Association station locator app.

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This week’s ag update from the Minnesota state capitol

Anna Boroff

Anna Boroff, MCGA Public Policy Director.

Written by Anna Boroff
Minnesota Corn Growers Association Policy Director

We’re less than a week away (supposedly) from the end of the Minnesota legislative session. But who’s counting?

This week’s legislative update includes all of the usual state updates, as well as updates from the federal side. Almost 1,000 words of wonky ag policy discussion for you to peruse as you finish up planting!

Buffers
Agriculture groups, including the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), continue working with the governor’s office and legislators on the buffer issue. I wish I had more to report at this time, but stay tuned. We’ll provide a more in-depth buffer update when there is more to report.

House omnibus ag finance bill
MCGA priority items that were included in the omnibus House ag finance bill passed last week are as follows:

  • Production incentives for biofuels, biochemicals and biomass thermal as proposed by a coalition supporting the Bioeconomy bill (listen to a radio interview on the Bioeconomy bill here). This is one-time funding of $1.7 million for fiscal year 2016 and 2017. The Senate version calls for $5 million, which would come from existing AGRI funds at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
  • An agriculture research, education, extension and technology transfer board is formed to award $8 million in funding for ag productivity research. The Senate version includes about $14 million.
  • A livestock study to identify the cause of growth or decline of poultry and livestock production in the upper Midwest, including the impact of nuisance conditions and lawsuits filed against poultry or livestock farms.
  • Critical funding for avian influenza and wolf depredation was also included.

What’s next? Now that both the House and Senate have ag finance bills, it heads to conference committee so the differences can be hashed out. Since the Senate and House structures are different when it comes to ag, environment natural resources and economic development, there will be two different conference committees.

More can be read about the omnibus House ag finance bill here.

Property taxes
The House and Senate tax bills have two different proposals in order to address concerns about farmers incurring too much of the cost on school district bonded construction projects.

  • The House version includes a property tax credit on all ag property which is 50 percent of the tax on the property attributed to school district bonded debt levies. Basically, farmers would get a refund of half from the state. The refund would come from the state so the burden isn’t shifted onto others in the local community, but spread over the entire tax base.
  • In the Senate, property classified in whole or part as 2a ag property is eligible for a credit if the property taxes paid on that portion of the property increase by more than 8 percent over the property taxes payable in the prior year on the property, and if the amount of the increase is $200 or more. The amount of the credit then would be the amount of the increase over the greatest of 8 percent of the prior year’s property taxes, or $200, with a max credit of $2,000.
  • There’s also a study in the Senate version that requires the Minnesota Departments of Agriculture and Revenue to conduct a study examining valuing ag land for property tax purposes based on the value of ag commodities produced minus the cost of production.
  • I understand that this can be a confusing issue, especially the Senate language. If you have further questions, please contact me and I’d be happy to try and answer them.

Transportation
The House version of the transportation bill uses existing funding to boost spending on roads and bridges. This would be accomplished by re-purposing existing sales taxes on transportation-related items that currently go into the general fund, as well as using a portion of the surplus.

The Senate version uses a new 6.5 percent gross receipts tax in addition to the existing gas tax (28.5 cents). Basically, the gross receipts tax would charge an additional 16 cents per gallon until pump prices hit $2.50 per gallon. When gas prices rise above that level, the receipts tax is then 6.5 percent of the overall prices at the pump. The percentage would change annually, depending on the average price per gallon at the pump from the previous year.

Trade Promotion Authority
On the federal side, the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) will receive a couple more weeks of debate. MCGA supports passing TPA, which is an authority given from Congress to the President to negotiate trade agreements and submit them to Congress for an up or down vote without amendments. Passing TPA allows the ag sector to compete on a level playing field in a global market. If you haven’t already, please reach out to our two senators and your congressman to encourage them to pass TPA as quickly as possible.

Waters of the United States
Look for the House to vote on the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) bill this week. The bill would force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw its current WOTUS rule and come up with a new one that would require input from stakeholders and state/local governments.

A bi-partisan group in the Senate introduced legislation last week requiring EPA to withdraw current rulemaking on WOTUS and start over.

President Obama issued a formal State of Administration Policy on the bill, saying, “The Administration strongly opposes” any effort to force EPA to withdraw its 2014 WOTUS rulemaking.  “If the President were (sic) presented with (the bill), his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

GMO labeling
Later this month the House Energy and Commerce committee is expected to hear a bill supported by MCGA and the National Corn Growers Association that would create a federal solution to the issue of labeling GMO foods. The bill would require the Food & Drug Administration to review all genetically modified ingredients, define “natural,” and set up a voluntary certification process for those who wish to label foods non-GMO.

This is a bi-partisan bill that would trump state authority and develop a uniform, federal standard for GMO labeling instead of a confusing state-by-state process.

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