Here is a partial list of new laws and funding passed during the 2017 regular and special Minnesota legislative sessions that affect agriculture and farmers. They became effective July 1.
• The omnibus agriculture finance law appropriates more than $120 million from the General Fund during the upcoming biennium to fund the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) ($106.24 million), Board of Animal Health ($10.87 million) and Agricultural Utilization Research Institute ($7.58 million).
The MDA appropriation includes money designated to expand capabilities for the rapid detection, identification, containment, control and management of high-priority plant pests and pathogens, as well as grants to local units of government responding to noxious weed threats.
• A new pollinator habitat and research account in the agricultural fund for pollinator research and outreach work at the University of Minnesota was established. It includes identifying science-based best practices and establishing habitat beneficial to pollinators.
• Up to $1 million each year was appropriated for the University of Minnesota to conduct research on avian influenza, including prevention measures.
• A wolf-livestock conflict prevention pilot program has been established.
• The industrial hemp pilot program received an appropriation of $200,000 each year.
The law does not include delays for implementing the 2015 buffer law, but it does have a provision allowing landowners who file compliance plans with their soil and water conservation districts by Nov. 1 to receive compliance waivers, giving them until July 1, 2018 for implementation. The date for buffers or alternative water quality practices to be in place on public waters remains Nov. 1. For public ditches, it is Nov. 1, 2018.
A new law appropriates $529.56 million for projects aimed at improving the state’s water quality and other natural and cultural resources during the upcoming biennium from the four funds established by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008.
The appropriations include $211.87 million for the Clean Water Fund, $123.36 million for the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, $104.56 million for the Outdoor Heritage Fund and $89.76 million for the Parks and Trails Fund.
The Clean Water Fund appropriation includes $22 million for grants to the state’s 90 soil and water conservation districts to help them comply with the 2015 buffer law meant to improve water quality and assist with other costs.
There are also $3 million in CWF appropriations to help fund the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which pays landowners to retire environmentally sensitive land from production to help improve the environment. Gov. Mark Dayton signed an agreement with USDA in January to secure $350 million in federal funding for the program, but the state must commit $150 million of its own money.
SWCDs will receive $5 million to help implement buffers or alternative water-quality practices. Of that total, $2.5 million can be used outside the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Area — the 54 Minnesota counties designated with the highest need to improve water quality and protect habitat.
The law provides $5 million to the MDA's Water Quality Certification Program to help implement approved farm management practices that improve water quality. That money should help leverage an additional $5.2 million in federal funds for the program.
Minnesota Management and Budget is required to submit a report to the Legislature by Oct. 1, 2017, for each of the four funds detailing the amount used from each to reimburse the General Fund for indirect costs, such as overhead expenses. The report also must tell how those cost allocations align with the legacy amendment’s constitutional requirements.
In a recent newsletter to his constituents, state Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, also shared the following:
• The 2017 tax bill delivers $650 million in relief to Minnesota families over the next two years, and $790 million in 2020-21.
In effect for either tax year 2017 (for filings made in 2018), or in calendar year 2018 (the property tax provisions) are:
• Social Security tax relief for nearly 284,000 senior citizen tax returns (single and married filing jointly)
• property tax relief for small business owners through the elimination of the state property tax on the first $100,000 of value on commercial real estate
• an increased child care tax credit, so a family of four making $50,000 will get $1,200 more
• a student loan credit that will give 65,000 students an average reduction of $414
• a 40% reduction in school levy property taxes on farmland
Source: Minnesota House of Representatives