Voting delegates at the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation's recent 93rd Annual Meeting adopted policy positions for 2012.
At the MFBF Board of Directors meeting following the Annual Meeting, board members prioritized the issues to provide focus for the organization and its members as they work to implement Farm Bureau policy in the coming year.
"The policy development process began early in the year and resulted in a very productive Minnesota Farm Bureau delegate session," said president Kevin Paap. "Voting delegates, farmers and ranchers throughout the state established our public policy positions on the issues facing agriculture."
Key areas include:
State Budget :Delegates expressed growing concern over the recent actions to balance the state budget that have shifted E-12 school funding to future years and continuing cuts to state aid for local units of government. The school shift is driving up costs to rural school districts as they try to bridge the funding gap created by the shift. The bottom line is local property taxes are increasing to compensate for the changes occurring at the state level.
Food Safety: Delegates to the MFBF Annual Meeting reaffirmed the organization's strong commitment to producing a safe and abundant food supply for all consumers. They will work with legislators in the coming Minnesota legislative session to ensure the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and other state agencies have the necessary resources to maintain the important food inspection and consumer protection functions of those agencies.
Agland Property Taxes: Farmers across Minnesota are facing a double edged sword when it comes to property taxes on agricultural land. In many areas of the state, the loss of the market value homestead credit will result in an increase in agricultural land property taxes. Ag land is about the only class of property in Minnesota in recent years that has seen an increase in value. When one class of property, agricultural land, experiences an increase in value and other classes of property see their values decreasing or remaining steady the property tax burden shifts to the class of property with increased value, agricultural land. Farm Bureau will work with legislators and the administration to ensure Minnesota has a fair and equitable property tax system.
Land: Delegates strongly supported full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program to make up for the loss of local property tax dollars when private land is sold to public entities. In addition, when third party organizations purchase private land with public dollars they must follow the same procedures public agencies must use when purchasing private land. Funding streams must be in place to replace the loss of local property tax dollars and cover ongoing management costs. There must be public notice before any state agency or third party organization purchases private land with public dollars.
Water Management: Delegates strongly support the development of an agriculture only wetland banking system and wetland mitigation systems that provide flexibility and protect our precious water resources. Farm Bureau members remain committed to actively participating in TMDL efforts across the state. Research activities such as the Discovery Farms are increasingly important to develop sound, economical and effective solutions addressing water quality concerns.
Regulations and Permitting: Farm Bureau supports changes to government regulatory and permitting processes that focus on timeliness, consistency, transparency and certainty with meaningful early stakeholder involvement.
Agriculture Growth, Research and Innovative Program: AGRI offers a real opportunity for the state of Minnesota, along with farmers and ranchers, to invest in programs and activities that will support the state's agriculture into the future. Under the leadership of the Governor, MDA and legislators, this program was funded in this biennium and into the future. Farm Bureau supports agricultural producer input into the decision making process and funding prioritization.
Source: Minnesota Farm Bureau