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October 1st, 2016 Issue Update

Farmer-Lender Mediation Task Force begins meeting

This past month MFU attended the first meeting of the Farmer-Lender Mediation Task Force that was formed by the legislature to look at the 30 year old program that mandates during a 90 day period, creditors in mediation may or may not collect on the debt. The use of the term mandatory does not mean that the farmer must use mediation. It means that no creditor can start a proceeding to collect debt against a property until the offer of mediation has been extended and, if the farmer so chooses, completed. One of the items being considered is the current $5,000 threshold, some in the banking industry would like to raise that number at least to the inflation number of $13,500. Among the MFU members on the committee are Yellow Medicine County Farmers Union President Tim Velde, Wabasha Co. member Jessica Hofschulte and also MFU President Doug Peterson. Members who have experience or thoughts on Farmer-Lender Mediation program, now is the time to share them, please contact me!

Pollinators

MFU continues to look through Governor Dayton’s Executive order on pollinators and the release of the neonicotinoid review. What probably raised the most concern and questions was language in the Executive Order that calls for a “verification of need” before applying products containing neonicotinoids. MFU’s understanding with the administration is no matter how this works it does not apply this year and most likely nest year, instead it will be discussed at the legislature and also within the a 15 member public committee the Governor is forming on Pollinators. MFU is sure to discuss this at the State MFU Convention and we are starting to see some resolutions on issue.

Section 32-Dairy

In response to what Farmers Union heard form Sec. Vilsack at the fall Fly-in to D.C., National Farmers Union recently sent a letter to the Chairs of the Senate and House Appropriations Committee Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Rep. Hal Rodgers of Kentucky asking them that they consider removing funding restrictions place on clause 3 of Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, Section 5 of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act related to surplus removal activities, or authorize the USDA to refund 2015 MPP premiums, which totaled $73 million. Removing this restriction would give the USDA authority to help farmers when necessary.

Hemp

MFU has recently visited two of the hemp pilots in Minnesota; the crop has been growing well in Minnesota this year at the pilot project sites, the MN Department of Agriculture (MDA) will soon release the RFP for growers interested in growing the crop for 2017. For more information see MDA’s website.

Statewide Deer Management

Applications are open for citizens interested in serving on a statewide deer management plan advisory committee that will provide guidance, input and feedback beginning this December and continuing throughout the planning process. The committee's recommendations, along with broader public input, will help DNR develop its first-ever deer management plan, which will provide strategic guidance on deer management into the future. MFU will have a designated spot on the committee, but there are also several public spots, MFU encourages members to apply, you can find more info on DNR website.

Bly sends letter on competition

Recently, Rep. David Bly (DFL-Northfield) and five House Members sent a letter to Governor Dayton and Attorney General Swanson urging them to use their power and antitrust laws to stop consolidation in the agricultural industry. “With only a handful of companies producing seed, fertilizer and equipment, farmers have seen increased prices for inputs, decreased choice, and the depopulation of rural America as more family farms are consolidated,” remarked Rep. Bly “This trend will only worsen if Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto and the Dupont and Dow Chemical mergers are allowed to go forward. Minnesota farmers are struggling with low commodity prices and high costs for farm inputs. It’s vital that we use state and federal antitrust laws to ensure farmers’ interests are put ahead of those of Big Agriculture.”


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 6-16-16

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Tuesday May 24, 2016

 

MFU Pleased with Legislative outcomes

 

The Minnesota Legislature concluded its regular business Monday May 23rd, Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) saw many positive pieces included for agriculture. “When the session started MFU’s top legislative priorities were addressing property taxes, rural broadband, clarifying the new buffer law and extending the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act as well as other priorities” said MFU President Doug Peterson.  MFU was pleased to see positive action on these issues including:

 

-Passage of SF 2503/HF 3000 that clarifies that the new buffer legislation that passed last year is limited to public waters and public ditches, and also clarifies enforcement and buffer starting point.

 

-Passage of SF 3018 that extends the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act for two years. Without the extension this program would have ended this summer.

 

-Inclusion of $35 million dollars for Rural Broadband in the omnibus budget supplemental bill HF 2749.

 

-Inclusion of $90 million dollars in the omnibus tax bill SF 848 in tax relief for farmers from school capital improvement levies starting for taxes payable in 2017 from the portion of property taxes subject to an improvement levy.

 

In addition, MFU was pleased to see funding included for Industrial Hemp, the Forever Green perennial crop initiative, the Good Food Access Fund, MN Ag Water Quality Certification Program, and tractor roll-over safety program. In addition MFU was pleased to see language included that addresses concerns farmers had with recapture liens for Medical Assistance (MA) and for not placing a $20,000 asset test on farmers enrolled in Minnesota Care. MFU is urging Governor Mark Dayton to take action and sign the bills containing these provisions.

 

Property Tax Relief

 

MFU was pleased to see $90 million included in the omnibus tax bill that will provide a 40% credit to the portion of Ag property tax farmers pay that are attributed to a school capital improvement levy for taxes payable in 2017. MFU thanks Sen. Rod Skoe, Sen. Lyle Koenen and Rep. Steve Drazkowski especially for their work on this issue.  MFU sent a note to Governor Dayton yesterday urging him to sign the tax bill.

 

Farmer-Lender Mediation extended

 

Legislation passed at the end that will extend the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act for another two years until 2019. The legislation also will have MDA convene a working group to discuss the 30 year old program and make suggestions for changes. MFU members who are interested in serving on the working group should contact me. MFU thanks Rep. Paul Anderson and Sen. Dan Sparks for their work on this issue.

 

Forever Green

 

The omnibus supplemental spending bill passed by the legislature included another $1 million for the Forever Green perennial crop program at the University of Minnesota. MFU supported this provision and you can see more information on the program here: http://www.forevergreen.umn.edu/

 

Hemp!

 

The spending bill also included $250,000 to MDA for implementation of growing industrial hemp in Minnesota. This past week MDA signed the first 7 contract with farmers to grow pilot scale projects of hemp. Also this week Rep. Rick Nolan became a co-author of HR 525 the Industrial Hemp Farming Act which would allow wide spread farming or hemp, MFU thanks him!

 

Water Certification Program

 

MFU was pleased to see an additional $2.5 million pass the legislature in the waning hours as part of SF 2527 for the MN Ag Water Certification Program. MFU is starting to see more and more members sign up for this program which now has nearly 150 farmers enrolled, more information here: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/awqcp

 

Good Food Access Fund

 

MFU was also pleased to see the Good Food Access Fund received $250,000 in one-time funding in the final supplemental budget bill (HF 2749). MFU supported this effort which will also have an advisory committee which MFU will have a seat on, if you are interested in serving on this please let me know.

The goal of the Good Food Access Fund is to increase availability and accessibility to affordable and nutritious food in food deserts. Other goals:

 

-Mobile markets/food shelves that bring food to those who are unable to get to a grocery store

 

-Increases in the number of farmer’s markets and grocery stores in underserved areas

 

-Boosted economic activity and new jobs available

 

-Improved overall health of people currently living in food deserts

 

Buffers

 

The recently passed Omnibus Tax bill includes $11 million for counties to enforce buffer work. Each county should receive a base of $45,000 up to $200,000 for buffer enforcement work. A reminder that farmers have until the end of the month to get into their county SWCD office to check out buffer maps, more info here: http://news.dnr.state.mn.us/2016/04/25/landowners-local-governments-reviewing-preliminary-buffer-map/

 

Disappointments

 

MFU is disappointed that at this time no action was taken on transportation funding for rural roads and bridges, our organization will continue to advocate for adequate transportation funding. The legislature did not pass a transportation or bonding bill. Also in the bonding bill that did not pass was authorization for user-financed bonds for the Rural Finance Authority (RFA) which make loans to farmers. MFU will continue to work to ensure the RFA has adequate dollars available to make loans to farmers especially for the Restructure loan program which will be important for farmers this year with the challenging Ag economy.

 

Medical Assistance recapture

 

MFU was pleased to see language in the supplemental budget bill that will end recapture claims being filed against estates of those using Medical Assistance (MA) for basic health care coverage. Another provision says that the Department of Human Services must notify Medical Assistance recipients between the ages of 55 and 64 that there will be no claims filed against their estates. The Minnesota Management and Budget office said the fix would cost $2.25 million to implement in fiscal year 2017 and $2.37 million in each of the next two years.

 

Legislative Auditor

 

The Office of the Legislative Auditor next week will release a new report on the deer population in Minnesota and also recently released a report on AURI, you can find information on them here: http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/

 

Goule leaving NFU

 

Chandler Goule has announced he is leaving his position as National Farmers Union’s senior vice president of programs to become the CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers. He succeeds former MN Soybean ED Jim Palmer, who announced his resignation in April to spend more time with his family in Missouri. MFU thanks Goule for his years of service to Farmers Union and wishes him well!

 

MFU on RFS

 

Minnesota Farmer Union (MFU) is discouraged in viewing the proposal that was released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The proposal of the RFS renewable volume obligations (RVO) for 2017, are at 18.8 billion gallons: 4 billion blended gallons of advanced biofuels (like biodiesel) and 14.8 billion gallons of conventional biofuels (like ethanol), into ours nation’s fuel supply, which falls more than 5 billion gallons. “The EPA has undermined the RFS once again. They fell significantly short of the statute with their proposed volume obligations, and we are deeply disappointed and amazed as to the administrations disregard for sound renewable fuel policy.” stated MFU President Doug Peterson. The final RFS levels for 2017 will be announced later this year. Minnesota Farmers Union, along with others, will be urging congress to continue working to improve the proposed numbers, and return the volume obligations to their statutory level in the final rule.

 

Sustainable Grants awarded

 

MDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant program has just awarded grants to 11 new projects across the state. The projects, which last for two to three years, are located in all regions of the state. Topics include cover cropping, controlling invasive species with goats, bee health, novel rootstock for pear production, integrating livestock into orchards, evaluating the palatability and nutrition of corn varieties for poultry production, and more. There’s even an urban agriculture project exploring whether worm composting is an economical way to make a potting medium for greenhouse production.  All projects take place on Minnesota farms and are either led by or involve farmers as primary partners. Projects host public events in their final year to share their findings with other producers and the public. Their findings are summarized in the annual Greenbook, available at www.mda.state.mn.us/greenbook . MFU has been a longtime supporter of this program.

 

MFU Solar Open House

 

MFU invites you to join us for lunch and our solar open house on June 22nd from 11-1 at our new MFU office at 305 RoseLawn Ave in St. Paul (Maplewood). Join us for a virtual tour of our new roof top solar with a short presentation from Novel Energy and MFU. To RSVP or if you have questions contact Michelle Medina at michelle@mfu.org or 651-288-4096.

 

Focus on the Future

 

MFU will be holding our summer Full Board meeting (made up of MFU County Presidents) Sunday June 12th at Breezy Point Resort. MFU’s Focus on the Future Retreat will also be held at Breezy Point starting June 12th and concluding the 14th. For more information on the MFU retreat checkout www.mfu.org .

 

That is all for now as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 5-5-16

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Thursday May 5, 2016

 

Bonding bill released, fails

 

Sen. LeRoy Stumpf released the Senate version of the bonding bill this week, the $1.5 billion dollar bill includes dollars for transportation and clean water infrastructure as well as dollars for several agriculture related areas.  Included for agriculture are $ 2,218,000 for the MN Department of Agriculture and $ 606,000 for AURI Lab upgrades and authorization for $ 35 million dollars of user-financed bonds for the Rural Finance Authority (RFA). Bonding for RFA is a priority issue for MFU this year and MFU is pleased to see it included in the Senate bill. However, for now the bonding bill failed to get the 3/5ths votes needed to pass Thursday when it failed on a vote of 26-40, it needed 41 to pass. Sen. Michelle Fishbach did not vote. The House author Rep. Paul Torkeslon has yet to releases his version. See Senate version here: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=Senate&f=HF3467&ssn=0&y=2016

 

Farmer-Lender clears another hurdle

 

Another one of MFU’s priority issues this year is extension of the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act that is due to sunset this year; it cleared another hurdle this week. SF 1306 authored by Sen. Dan Sparks passed through the Senate Finance Committee this week and was given second reading. Both bodies will likely take this legislation up some time next week.

 

Green County approval bill

 

Rep. Steve Green has introduced HF 3974 and the bill was heard in State Government Operations Policy Committee and passed yesterday to the Rules Committee. The bill requires a recipient of outdoor heritage fund money for acquiring land in fee to get county approval of the acquisition. Effective July 1, 2016, and applies to acquisitions with money appropriated on or after that date. MFU encourages members who have thoughts about this bill to contact me.

 

Trust Fund bill clears Senate

 

On a vote of 50-10 SF 2963 authored by Sen. Kari Dziedzic passed the Senate, the bill appropriates money from the environment and natural resources trust fund; Here is a look at some of the agriculture related projects:

 

-$170,000 the second year is from the  trust fund to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota to develop a geographic information system (GIS) assessment of riparian vegetative buffers in 67 agricultural counties in Minnesota using aerial imagery and light detection and ranging (LiDAR) terrain analysis in order to protect water quality.

 

-$349,000 the second year is from the trust fund to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota to evaluate the potential risk to game and nongame birds from exposure to neonicotinoid-treated agricultural seeds.

 

-$110,000 the second year is from the trust fund to the Board of Water and Soil Resources for an agreement with the Blue Earth County Drainage Authority to continue monitoring a model demonstration for storage and treatment options in drainage systems designed to improve agricultural and urban water quality by reducing soil erosion, peak water flows, and nutrient loading.

 

-$39,000 the second year is from the trust fund to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Southwest Minnesota State University to partner with area schools to deliver inquiry-based, hands-on learning and mentoring on water quality stewardship between university agriculture students and high school and middle school students.

 

-$750,000 the second year is from the trust fund. Of this amount, $511,000 is to the commissioner of agriculture and $239,000 is to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota to train volunteers and professionals to find, control, and monitor targeted newly emergent invasive plant species.

 

-$500,000 the second year is from the trust fund to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota for the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris to develop and evaluate an integrated system that recycles and uses nutrients in dairy wastewater from feedlots and milk processing, thereby reducing nutrients from agricultural runoff, and to provide outreach on adoption of new technologies.

 

-$250,000 the second year is from the trust fund to the commissioner of natural resources to evaluate exposure risks of grassland wildlife to soybean aphid insecticides, to guide grassland management in farmland regions of Minnesota for the protection of birds, beneficial insects, and other grassland wildlife.

 

Buffer comments

 

This week, MFU submitted comments to the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) concerning proposed rules on soil loss, implementation of buffer programs including enforcement, alternative practices and other issues.  MFU will be working on resolutions for some of these issues for this summer’s board meeting and also county conventions. Members who have buffer questions who want more info can check out the BWSR-buffer website which has a lot of information on it: http://bwsr.state.mn.us/buffers/

 

NFU supports TPP letter

 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become a divisive issue in the nation’s capital, and criticism intensified after 161 food, farm, faith and rural organizations sent a letter to Capitol Hill today, urging lawmakers to reject the trade pact. The White House has promoted the TPP as an export-boon for farmers to generate support for the agreement, but past trade agreements have not always delivered on export promises, the letter noted. For example, the United States’ total combined exports of corn, soybeans and wheat have remained steady at about 100 million metric tons for the last 30 years despite a raft of free trade agreements since the mid-1990s. “In its current form, the TPP sets to bankroll global business rather than foster local economies. It fails to address our alarming trade deficit and other serious issues that will be passed on to the family farmer, the everyday consumer and the American worker,” said Roger Johnson, president of National Farmers Union, one of the letter’s signers. “NFU understands this trade agreement is not a good deal for our nearly 200,000 family farm and ranch members.” The TPP poses particular risks for cattle producers. In 2015, the United States imported nearly 2.3 billion pounds of beef from TPP partners but only exported about 1.2 billion pounds. The TPP will increase beef and cattle imports at a time when domestic cattle prices are plummeting. The letter and complete list of signers can be read here: http://fwwat.ch/1qQ3Ux0

 

Value-Added Grants Available

 

Grant funding is available for Minnesota residents or businesses interested in studying the feasibility of a new venture to add value to an agricultural commodity or product. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Value-Added Feasibility Study Grant will reimburse eligible farmers and farm networks, agricultural cooperatives, agricultural businesses, and others up to 50 percent of the costs for a third party consultant to conduct the feasibility study, with a maximum award of $35,000. The MDA is requesting that interested parties submit a “Letter of Interest” as the first step in this competitive grant process. Letters of Interest will be evaluated, and upon approval, applicants will be offered free consulting services from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI).  Interested parties are invited to submit a Letter of Interest by visiting the Grants page on the MDA’s website. Letters of Interest must be submitted at the Online Grant Application website. Applicants must be Minnesota residents and the proposed value-added business must be located in Minnesota. The submission deadline is on a first come, first served basis through June 15, 2016. CONTACT: Alauna Yust, MDA Communications at 651-201-6629 or alauna.yust@state.mn.us .

 

Ag BMP Loans

 

A new proposal to expand the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s AgBMP Loan Program would help rural landowners repair, replace or treat private wells that do not meet drinking water standards. Under the current AgBMP Loan Program, low interest loans are available to landowners to implement best management practices that prevent, reduce, or eliminate water pollution problems. The proposed amendment would broaden the program eligibility requirements to include improvements to private wells. This would include treatment, repair or replacement of an existing well and other effective best management practices.  Eligible loan recipients are farmers, farm supply businesses and rural landowners. More information about the AgBMP program is available online at www.mda.state.mn.us/agbmp. The proposed loan program expansion is part of a Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith proposed $220 million plan to modernize Minnesota’s aging water infrastructure and protect groundwater from contamination, assisting communities across the state with critical investments in aging water infrastructure, and investing in water quality protection initiatives to restore and protect water quality across the state.

 

Carlson named FLAG Executive Director

 

The Board of Directors of the Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG) is delighted to announce the appointment of Scott Carlson as the new FLAG Executive Director. Scott brings a lifelong commitment to family farmers and exceptional legal and managerial credentials to the position. Scott’s appointment will assure FLAG’s continued success as it moves forward to meet the complex challenges facing family farmers today. Raised on a family farm, Scott brings a deep personal commitment to the job. He has extensive experience in state and federal farm policy, having worked for Sarah Vogel when she served as the North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture and for U.S. Senator Kent Conrad, serving first as Legislative Assistant for Agriculture, and then as a member of the Senior Professional Staff of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. Scott is an honors graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, where he served as Managing Editor of the Minnesota Law Review. Scott’s nationwide legal practice focused on antitrust, consumer fraud, and other complex litigation for more than 12 years. For more info on FLAG checkout: www.flaginc.org , congrats to Scott.

 

MFU Summer Board meeting/Focus on the Future

 

MFU will be holding our summer Full Board meeting (made up of MFU County Presidents) Sunday June 12th at Breezy Point Resort. MFU’s Focus on the Future Retreat will also be held at Breezy Point starting June 12th and concluding the 14th. For more information on the MFU retreat checkout www.mfu.org .

 

That is all for now, as usual questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union

 

 

Thom Petersen

Director of Government Relations

Minnesota Farmers Union

thom@mfu.org

(612) 860-9462 (cell)

(651) 288-4067 (office)

www.mfu.org

@thommypetersen


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 4-22-16

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday April 22, 2016

Buffer bill sent to Governor

S.F. 2503 known as the “buffer clarification” bill has recently passed both the House and Senate and is on the way to Governor Dayton’s desk where he is expected to sign the bill next week. The Senate passed the bill 61-0 and the House 105-24 with several metro and urban DFLers voting no. The bill clarifies the starting point of the buffer, which waters are included and enforcement issues among other items. MFU thanks Sen. Rod Skoe and Rep. Paul Torkekson the lead authors for their work on the bill. To see more information on how people voted, what’s in the bill and more see here: SF2503

Buffer maps

Ever wonder what a buffer protection map looks like or what waters need to be covered? Checkout some of the counties the DNR has mapped and posted on their website that are on the public water inventory and will need a buffer, click here and scroll down to see maps: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/pwi/maps.html

House budget bill

The House Agriculture has passed their version of the omnibus finance bill and presented it to the Ways and Means Committee this week where it is being rolled in to a larger omnibus spending bill. Rep. Rod Hamilton is the chief author of the bill that includes $250,000 for tractor roll-over protection and funding for the Board of Animal Health and MDA labs for testing. Important to remember the tractor roll-over is for pre-1987 tractors and not a mandatory program. Rep. Hamilton said this week he is continuing to seek funding from other sources for urban agriculture and the Good Food Access fund initiatives. Bill info here: SF3888

Senate budget bill

The Senate budget bill authored by Sen. David Tomassoni includes many of MFU’s funding priorities including:

-$350,000 for noxious weed grants (Sparks)

-$1 million for Tractor roll-over grants (Sparks)

-$300,000 for pollinator investment grants (Schmit)

-$500,000 for industrial hemp pilot project (Eken)

-$150,000 for organic transition assistance (Dahle)

-$1 million for Forever Green perennial project (Dahle)

This bill was also rolled into a larger omnibus funding bill; members who have questions about any of these pieces should feel free to contact me.

Thompson named new State Veterinarian

The MN State Board of Animal Health has announced that Dr. Beth Thompson will replace the retiring Dr. Bill Hartmann on June 1. Hartmann has led the State Board of Animal Health and been state veterinarian since 2001. Thompson joined the board as a senior veterinarian in 2008 after graduating from the University of Minnesota Veterinary School in 2007 and spending a year as a swine production system veterinarian for a Minnesota company. MFU has worked with Dr. Thompson for many years and looks forward to working with her and congratulates Dr. Hartmann for his many years of service.

Re-capture liens         

Both the House and Senate articles of the budget bills include language to address the issue of liens being placed on individuals who are on Medical Assistance (MA) for health care for the purpose of re-capturing costs. The language would eliminate the re-capture language retroactive back to January 1st, 2014. The bills also call for more information to be given to individuals about programs.

MinnesotaCare

MFU has concerns about language contained in the House health care portion of the omnibus Finance bill moving through the process that would place an asset test on individuals using MinnesotaCare as their health care option. Farmers income vary considerably from one year to the next and MinnesotaCare while not perfect has been an option for some farm families, but MFU has concerns this provision would take that option away. MFU will continue to work on this as it moves forward.  

Good Food Access Fund

The Senate Subcommittee on Equity included the Good Food Access Fund in their budget recommendations that are moving through the process.  The appropriation is $5 million in one-time funding (all their appropriations are one-time). You can see more information about the program here: Good Food Access Fund

NFU on GIPSA

After several years of proactively limiting farmers’ basic rights and protections, Congress appeared poised to finally let the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implement a provision included in the 2008 Farm Bill to provide needed marketplace protections to contract farmers. But, the House Appropriations Committee recently passed an amendment designed to further stall the long-awaited Grain Inspection and Stockyards Protection Administration (GIPSA) rule. “The idea that the House Appropriations Committee would ignore the progress we’ve made towards finalizing this important set of rules is completely appalling. Today’s action is a direct assault on family farmers and ranchers in this country,” said National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson. The Grain Inspection and Stockyards Protection Administration (GIPSA) rule would address abusive contracting and marketing practices in the highly concentrated livestock and poultry sectors – such as prohibiting retaliation for farmers who speak to USDA or with members of Congress and requiring transparency in how pay is calculated. An annual appropriations rider had repeatedly blocked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing the final rule, until late last year when lawmakers omitted the rider from the congressional appropriations omnibus bill.  The amendment passed in the House Appropriations Committee would bar USDA from writing rules that address unjust discriminatory practices, such as retaliation against farmers who speak out about unfair practices.

 

Water Action Week

 

Governor Mark Dayton has declared this week “Water Action Week” with several different actions taking place including the Governor learning more about the Forever Green project and other initiatives. You can see actions recommended by the Administration for farmers and landowners here: http://mn.gov/governor/issues/wateraction/index.jsp

 

Zip Rail

 

One piece that I haven’t written about that is making its way through the process is language in SF 3244 authored by Sen. Matt Schmit that establishes a high-speed rail project advisory working group and states that the purpose of the working group is to ensure that all affected stakeholders in a project have the opportunity to engage in public discussion relating to the project of the proposed Zip Rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities, MFU would like to hear about members about this idea, you can see more here: High Speed Rail working group

 

Property Taxes

 

MFU continues to support legislation that would provide a 50% credit to the landowner to help reduce property taxes associated with capital improvement levies of schools. The language is contained in the House version of the property tax bill that passed last year and is currently sitting in conference committee. Sen. Lyle Koenen is the Senate author of the provision. MFU expects tax activity to pick up soon as budget bills are complete. MFU will continue to advocate this important piece’s inclusion in final tax compromise.

 

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

 

Thom Petersen, Director of Gov’t Relations, MN Farmers Union

 


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 4-1-16

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday April 1, 2016

Buffer Clarification bill moving

Yesterday in the Senate Environment Committee, MFU testified in favor of S.F. 2503 authored by Sen. Rod Skoe which would clarify some issues with the buffer legislation passed last session. Among the important items is clarifying the law relates to public waters and public ditches. Also clarifies enforcement actions and other technical issues. You can see the bill information here: Buffer bill .The bill passed unanimously and without opposition and was sent to the Tax Committee, MFU will continue to work on this issue as it moves forward. Rep. Paul Torkelson is the author in the House and the bill is in the Environment Committee. More information on DNR buffer mapping project here: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/buffers/index.html

Buffer Repeal Introduced

Rep. Steve Drazkowski has introduced H.F. 3767, a bill repeals riparian buffer requirements enacted last year. Rep. Tim Miller and Rep. Jeff Backer are co-sponsors. There is no Senate Companion at this point. The bill was read for the first time and referred to the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance.

Farmer-Lender Mediation

The Senate Agriculture Committee has passed S.F. 1306 authored by Sen. Dan Sparks which extends the Farmer-Lender Mediation program for another 2 years, and asks the Commissioner of Agriculture to convene a stakeholder group to look at program. The bill was sent to the Finance Committee. Rep. Paul Anderson is the House author for the program which is set to expire this summer if not extended. This is a priority for MFU with farm incomes at their lowest point in 20 years, the Mediation program is very important.

RFA

The House Agriculture Finance Committee heard H.F. 2601 authored by Rep Mike Sundin which is a bonding request for $35 million to support the Minnesota Rural Finance Authority (RFA). The RFA is also very important in this challenging time as MDA Assistant Commissioner Jim Boerboom testified that there is more interest in the Re-Structure loan program offered through the RFA. MFU strongly supports this request which was laid over in committee. Sen. Sparks is the Senate author.

1095’s

MFU has been working with MNSURE on an issue we heard, from many members was that they did not receive their 1095. Form 1095-A provides information that you need to file your 2015 taxes if advanced premium tax credit payments were applied to your insurance premiums or if you want to claim the premium tax credit on your 2015 tax return. The forms were supposed to be out by Feb. 1st 2016. A hearing was held this week in the House State Government Finance Committee on this issue and legislation offered by Rep. Greg Davids (H.F. 3511) that would have the state reimburse the public $10 per day for every day MNSURE was late in getting notices out. MNSURE reports that 93% had received their form by mid-week and all should by the weekend. MFU will continue to work with MNSURE on this issue.

Estate Recovery

MFU is also supporting legislation authored by Sen. Tony Lourey, Rep. Matt Dean Rep. Jason Rarick that would limit claims against the estate of a person over 55 years of age who did not receive institutional services to the amount of medical assistance correctly paid on behalf of the individual prior to January 1, 2014. This only applies to individuals placed in Medical Assistance (MA) and not Minnesota Care; this would address basic health care, not long term care. I have been contacted about this issue by several MFU members if you know someone in this situation or have questions about please let me know. The bills to remedy this situation are moving through the process.

Zip Rail Working Group

Many members in SE Minnesota have had concerns about a proposed “Zip Rail” high speed rail line between the Twin Cities and Rochester. Sen. Matt Schmit has introduced S.F. 3244 that would establish a high-speed rail project advisory working group and states that the purpose of the working group is to ensure that all affected stakeholders in a project have the opportunity to engage in public discussion relating to the project. MFU will continue to monitor this as it goes through the process and appreciates input form members in the area on this idea. There is no House author at this point.

Deer hunting bill

Rep. Jim Newberger had a hearing this week in the House Outdoor Committee on H.F. 3002, the bill would require the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to give preference to certain landowners and their family members when the number of deer hunters has been limited in an area and a lottery is conducted to select deer hunters. Landowners or tenants of at least 80 acres of agricultural land within the area and their family members would be eligible for the preference. People who have questions should contact me.

Solar Pollinator bill

MFU has been supporting S.F. No. 2689 that creates a new section of law establishing voluntary solar site management practices for owners of ground-mounted solar site with a generating capacity of more than 40 kilowatts. The bill provides that an owner of a ground-mounted solar may follow management practices that provide native perennial vegetation and foraging habitat beneficial to gamebirds, songbirds, and pollinators, and reduce storm water runoff and erosion. Specifies that site management practices should include use of native plant species and seed mixes as provided in the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) native vegetation establishment and enhancement guidelines. Sen. Dan Sparks is the author; in the House Rep. Rod Hamilton is the author.

Good Food Access bill

MFU is also supporting legislation known as the Good Food Access legislation. The authors are Sen. Sparks and Rep. Hamilton. The bills have been moving through the process. This bill creates an Access Program administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) in consultation with an advisory group. The program would provide financial and technical assistance to nonprofit and for-profit grocers and small food retailers who provide underserved communities access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate food. MDA could contract with one or more organizations to offer loans and technical assistance to eligible applicants. The program would receive $10,000,000 of annual base funding from the general fund.

Industrial Hemp Bill

A bill appropriating $500,000 to the MN Department of Agriculture to help move Industrial Hemp production forward in Minnesota will get a hearing on Monday in the Natural Resources, Economic Development, and Agricultural Budget Division. S.F. 3076 is authored by Sen. Kent Eken and supported by MFU. You can see more about MDA’s efforts on hemp here: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/hemp/industhempquestions.aspx

MFU meetings

This next week will be a busy week of meetings for MFU. MFU or chapters will be holding meetings in Waubun, Crookston, Hallock, AppleValley, Searles, Bemidji, Onamia, Carlton, Farmington, and Windom. Come here updates on MFU issues and programs. See more info here: http://www.mfu.org/pages/Events/

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Gov’t Relations, MN Farmers Union


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 3-18-16

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday March 11, 2016

National Farmers Union Convention wraps up

During the past week, National Farmers Union (NFU) provided more than 500 members and delegates of the 114th Anniversary Convention with the advocacy tools they need to be better informed about topics important to farm policy and the industry. Throughout the convention, several high-level officials highlighted the program, speaking about the opportunities and challenges facing American agriculture today. In addition to a special video message from President Barack Obama, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and General Wesley Clark gave keynote remarks. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D), U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.), and U.S. Representative Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) also addressed the convention.  Doug Peterson, President of Minnesota Farmers Union, was re-elected as NFU secretary. “I am pleased to have another opportunity to serve as the Secretary of National Farmers Union” stated Peterson.  More from the convention, including audio of the speeches and the full text of the adopted policy manual, will be available at www.nfu.org.

Legislative session begins

The Minnesota legislative session began on Tuesday March 8th and will conclude hopefully on or before May 23rd. Priorities for MFU are Agriculture property tax relief, buffer clarifications, extension of Farmer-Lender mediation and other issues. MFU President Doug Peterson attended Governor Mark Dayton’s “State of the State” speech as his guest this week. Dayton focused on water quality and touted the MN Dept. of Agriculture’s Ag Water Certification Program during his speech. Watch my twitter feed for Capitol updates @thommypetersen.

Winter appointed to PCA Board

MFU member, Ted Winter has been appointed by Governor Dayton, along with seven other members of the Governor’s committee, to advise the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. This is a four year term and they will meet on a regular basis to guide and advise the direction and enforcement of the state’s environmental protection laws.  Ted has been a long time member of Minnesota Farmers Union, and a long time insurance agent with Farmers Union Insurance Agency. Ted is currently serving as the president of the Nobles and Rock counties Farmers Union. Ted had previously served 16 years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, including two as House Majority Leader. Ted also owns, and operates a 250 acre crop farm in Southwest Minnesota.

Citizens Board re-instatement passes

S.F. 2384 authored by Sen. John Marty that reinstates the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens' Board that was ended last year passed the Senate Environment and Energy Committee yesterday on a 7-4 vote and was sent to the State and Local Government Committee. MFU submitted a letter in support of this legislation.

RFA reviewed

Yesterday the House Capital Investment Committee chaired by Rep. Paul Torkelson heard and overview of MDA’s bonding requests which include $35 million dollars for the Rural Finance Authority (RFA). MFU also submitted a letter of support for the RFA.  Among the loans of interest are the Restructure II, Beginning Farmer, Agricultural Improvement and Livestock Expansion loans. MFU VP Gary Wertish, and Benton County Farmers Union President Carol Anderson are among the board members, you can see more info on loans here: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/agfinance

Buffers next week

Next week the Senate Agriculture Committee Chaired by Sen. Dan Sparks will hear an update on the new buffer law, MFU will testify before the committee on clarifications we are seeking.  On Wed. it looks like Sen. Sparks committee will hear the buffer clarification bill authored by Sen. Skoe, you can see that bill here:  Buffer bill

Barn Preservation

Next week before the Senate Tax Committee Sen. Kevin Dahle will present his bill S.F. 768 which establishes certain tax incentives for barn preservation; by providing for property tax value exclusion for barns built before 1937 and authorizes an income tax credit on the rehabilitation costs of those barns. More info here: Barn bill . MFU will testify in favor of this bill.

Ditch Mowing

MFU met with the DNR this past week to discuss legislation they are putting forward regarding ditch mowing. DNR is seeking to improve pollinator habitat by enforcing and limiting ditch mowing and baling of hay before August 1st. The DNR is seeking to have farmers also obtain a permit before mowing and would asses a civil fine and petty misdemeanor to those not following the law. The law currently allows for the first 8 feet to be mowed prior to August 1st for safety, the DNR bill would allow 15 feet to be mowed. MFU will continue to work on this issue.

Drones

MFU also met this past week with MNDOT to discuss the use of drones and legislation they may seek to simplify the process users need to go through. Many farmers have begun to use drones for scouting crops and looking at real estate. Concerns also exist about outside interest flying over your farm to harass livestock etc. MNDOT has a webpage devoted to drones you can see more info here: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/aero/drones/index.html

Hemp RFP released

Recently MDA released the RFP for farmers interested in growing demonstration plots of industrial hemp. This comes after many years of work and passage of MFU-supported legislation authored by Sen. Kent Eken and Rep. Mary Franson. If you are interested in checking it out you can see the information here: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/hemp.aspx

Lourey Introduces recapture clarification bill

After a recent newspaper article, MFU has received many calls about farmers being subject recovery of benefits if you are enrolled in Medical Assistance (MA), MinnesotaCare or on a health care plan through MNSURE. Sen. Tony Lourey this week introduced S.F. 2501 to address those concerns.  Many farmers have been concerned that they would be subject to recovery if they were enrolled in these programs; this was only as I understand happening to those enrolled for basic health care in MA not a plan through MNSURE or MN Care. The bill is also retroactive back to January 1st, 2014. MFU will continue to work on this issue and encourages members who have questions to contact me.

Neonics and deer bill

Rep. Rick Hansen and Sen. Bev Scalze this week introduced legislation in both bodies that would say the DNR Commissioner would in consultation with the commissioners of Agriculture and Health, the University of Minnesota and other relevant land grant universities, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, conduct a study that shall determine whether and to what extent neonicotinoid pesticides are present in the tissue of wild deer in Minnesota.

Drain Tile bill

Sen. Greg Clausen has introduced S.F. 2451 that would say that before installing surface or subsurface drainage on agricultural land, a person must have received from the local government unit:

(1) a wetland replacement plan;(2) a no-loss determination; or(3) an exemption determination.

It would also say that if water from the installation of surface or subsurface drainage on agricultural land will flow on to land owned by another person, the person owning the agricultural land on which the surface or subsurface drainage is being installed must acquire a flowage easement from the person who owns the overflowed land. If an adequate outlet does not exist, the local government unit must not issue the plan or determination. MFU will be meeting with Sen. Clausen and will keep members updated on legislation.

MFU Open House

MFU invites the public to the Grand Opening of our new office at 305 RoseLawn east (about 3 minutes from downtown St. Paul) on Thursday March 17th from 5 to 8 p.m. We’ll have great food and drink, tours and info on MFU legislative, camp, membership, insurance and other programs. Come mingle with legislators, administration officials, MFU staff, farmers, chefs, and other VIPS’s! RSVP’s are appreciated at info@mfu.org .

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Gov’t Relations, MN Farmers Union

 

 

Thom Petersen

Director of Government Relations

Minnesota Farmers Union

thom@mfu.org

(612) 860-9462 (cell)

(651) 288-4067 (office)

www.mfu.org

@thommypetersen


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 4-8-16

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday April 8, 2016

Buffer clarification bill moving

MFU testified twice this week in favor of legislation authored by Rep. Paul Torkelson and Sen. Rod Skoe that would provide clarification to the buffer initiative passed last session.  Among the clarifications are that the law applies to public waters and public ditches, local enforcement and where the buffer begins (edge of the constructed channel). The full Senate will likely consider the bill later next week and the House after that. The bills were unopposed in both the House and Senate Committee hearings this week. A reminder for members looking for more information on buffers can use the BWSR buffer webpage:  http://bwsr.state.mn.us/buffers/

Anderson buffer tax bill

Rep. Paul Anderson late this week introduced HF 3828 that provides a property tax reduction for land constituting a riparian buffer. MFU will work with Rep. Anderson on this idea as the bill goes forward. You can see more information here: buffer tax reduction bill . MFU has also been meeting with County Assessors to better understand the impact on property taxes and buffers and will have more information at a later time.

BWSR asks for comments

BWSR is charged with overseeing program implementation of the buffer law.  The agency is currently seeking public comment on key components of its Buffer and Excessive Soil Loss programs. The Requests for Comment and supporting documents are available on the BWSR Buffer Program website: http://bwsr.state.mn.us/buffers/ and include specific questions related to program development.  BWSR is looking for feedback on:

  • Program timeline
  • Technical aspects of the program
  • Administrative processes ‘Other Waters’ – waters not covered under the DNR’s mapping process as determined by the local soil and water conservation district
  • Process for the Soil Erosion law implementation

Comments from stakeholders are a key part of the process, and will be considered during program development.  The BWSR Board will review draft policy and guidance for the buffer program at its June 2016 Board meeting.  The Soil Loss program will undergo rulemaking in the fall.  For information on the DNR Buffer Mapping Project, visit http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/buffers/index.html. Information and comments on buffer and soil loss program implementation will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on May 4, 2016. Comments may be submitted via email to buffers.bwsr@state.mn.us or via U.S. mail to David Weirens, Asst. Director for Programs and Policy, BWSR, 520 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155.

 

Organic Transition

MFU testified in favor of HF 2906 authored by Rep. David Bly this week in the House Ag Finance Committee, the bill would provide an appropriation to support farmers who are transitioning to organic farming. Many times farmers face hardships in the 3 year transition process to organic. The Committee had a good discussion on organics and also how the legislation might interact with current NRCS, USDA and MDA programs. The bill was laid over. MDA has information here on what is currently offered: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/organic/transitioncostshare.aspx Sen. Kevin Dahle is the Senate author and the bill will be heard Monday in the Senate Ag Finance division.

Hemp

MFU testified in favor of HF 3184 this week in the House Ag Finance Committee, the bill authored by Rep. Mary Franson would appropriate $500,000 to MDA to help support the legislation passed last year that created the Industrial Hemp Pilot Project.  The bill was laid over, MFU also testified on the Senate companion authored by Sen. Kent Eken this week in the Senate Ag Finance division. As a reminder members can find more info on Industrial Hemp here: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/hemp.aspx

Farm Safety

The House Ag Finance Committee also laid over HF 2502 this week authored by Rep. Paul Anderson that would provide up to $500 cost share to farmers to install a roll bar on a pre-1987 tractor. MFU supports this legislation. A note to members this is would be a voluntary program and would not affect tractors used in parades, etc. unless you chose to install a roll bar.

Neonics and deer study

The House Ag Finance division also heard an interesting bill this week, HF 2532 authored by Rep. Rick Hansen that would ask state agencies to attempt to determine if and to what extent neonicotinoid pesticides are present in the tissue of wild deer. The Committee held the bill over, the Senate Ag Finance will hear the bill next week, Sen. Bev Scalze if the chief author.

Manure drag line bills

This past week both the Senate and House Transportation Committees heard legislation that sought to narrow a 2015 law on permits issued to use of the right-of-way of a road to temporarily run a flexible pipe to apply manure to a field, so such that permits are only available for Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) right-of-way (instead of the right-of-way of any road authority such a county, city, or town).  However confusion has arisen as to implementation and enforcement on 2015 law and the need to obtain a permit.  After much discussion between commodity groups and township and county associations it is believed that an agreement has been reached that will allow townships to require permits only if they desire, but will not be mandatory. MFU will continue to follow and work on this issue, members who have questions should contact me. The authors on the legislation are Rep. Steve Drazkowski and Sen. Lyle Koenen.

Pollinator Solar bill

MFU is supporting legislation moving through the process that would provide that an owner of a ground-mounted solar may follow management practices that provide native perennial vegetation and foraging habitat beneficial to gamebirds, songbirds, and pollinators, and reduce storm water runoff and erosion. The bill also specifies that site management practices should include use of native plant species and seed mixes as provided in the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) native vegetation establishment and enhancement guidelines. The Chief authors are Rep. Rod Hamilton and Sen. Dan Sparks.

Farmer-Lender Mediation

A two year extension for the Farmer-Lender Mediation program at the $5,000 threshold was included this week in the House mini-version of an omnibus policy bill authored by Rep. Paul Anderson that was passed by his committee and sent to the floor, the extension is also moving as a stand-alone in the House.  The extension is a priority issue for MFU this session. The language in the bill also will have MDA convene a working group that includes MFU to look at the now 30 year old program.

Farm Safety Initiative

Also included in the mini-omnibus Ag Policy bill was language that was successfully added by Rep. Clark Johnson that would have MDA analyze the range of safety challenges presented in farming regarding farm safety and report back to the legislature. MDA would look at how other states address farm safety, how existing programs could better serve farmers and make recommendations on how to improve farm safety. MFU supports this effort.

Perennial biomass bill

The House Ag Finance Committee also this week heard and laid over HF 2881 authored by Rep. Clark Johnson that establishes a program to compensate landowners who grow perennial crops either for livestock feed or for use by a facility that produces electricity, advanced biofuel, renewable chemicals, or biomass thermal energy from the perennial crops. The bill also requires the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to deliver a feasibility study and program plan to the legislature. MFU is a part of the BioEconomy Coalition which has been working on and supporting this bill. Sen. Matt Schmit is the Senate author. More info on Coalition here: http://mnbioeconomy.org/

That is all for now as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 2-18-16

MFU County Presidents Meeting

MFU’s Full Board of Directors made up of our County Presidents will meet this Friday and Saturday Feb. 19 & 20. Friday night they will hear from Fritz Ebinger from MN CERTS on energy issues and House Minority Leader Paul Thissen on the upcoming session. Saturday the Board will hold their first meeting at our new office to discuss legislative, budget and membership issues and elect a State Secretary and Board of Directors.

Vilsack, Clark to headline NFU Convention

Farmers and ranchers attending the National Farmers Union (NFU) 114th Anniversary Convention will have the opportunity to hear from high-ranking experts in food and ag policy. NFU is pleased to announce U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and General Wesley Clark as keynote speakers at the annual convention, which kicks off March 5th in Minneapolis, Minn. The four-day meeting will bring together NFU members, industry professionals and friends of agriculture for a series of educational breakout sessions, two industry tours, and the organization’s unique, grassroots policy adoption process.  MFU is inviting members and friends of MFU attending the reception on Sunday night March 6th hosted by MFU at the Radisson Blu from 5:30 to 7:30 which will be followed by a NFUPAC reception featuring Rep. Collin Peterson at the Hard Rock Café.  The most up-to-date convention information, including a tentative agenda and hotel information, can be found on the NFU website at www.nfu.org/convention.

 

NFU on Syngenta merger

 

I have gotten a lot of questions about the Syngenta/ChemChina merger; here is NFU’s statement on the subject:  In response to the recent merger announcement by Syngenta AG and China National Chemical Corporation, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson released the following statement:

“Today’s announcement is cause for concern among everyone in U.S. agriculture, especially farmers. NFU will pay particularly close attention to the alarming trend of Chinese government-owned entities purchasing U.S. and other agricultural companies. Most recently, Chinese company Shuanghui International acquired U.S. pork producer Smithfield.  “In this case, Syngenta would be owned by a company controlled by the Chinese government. For an increasingly consolidated sector of agriculture, this is of particular concern since state-owned businesses frequently do not act in economically rational or predictable ways.  As a result, more uncertainty often surrounds their businesses, and consequently, other competing businesses may be adversely affected. “While NFU is pleased that Syngenta will maintain its North American presence for the sake of competition in the marketplace, we will continue to review the impact this deal may have on the competitiveness in U.S. agriculture. NFU is especially concerned that yet another merger will trigger additional domestic consolidation of the remaining seed and crop protection companies. “We urge the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to review this transaction to the fullest capacity of its jurisdiction for its impact on national security.”

 

Grant Herfindahl named FSA Director

Long time MFU member and Minnesota Agriculture contributor Grant Herfindahl has been named State Director of the Farm Service Agency (FSA)for Minnesota. Herfindahl takes over from Acting Director Jane Ray who replaced the now retired Deb Crusoe. MFU wishes Grant the best and looks forward to working with him.

Sunde joins Franken staff

Paula Sunde has joined U.S. Senator Franken’s staff in Minnesota.  Sunde will work in the areas of Agriculture, Energy, and Environment Field Representative in Minnesota.  Paula most recently worked at the MN Department of Natural Resources on the agency’s strategic planning and diversity and inclusion.  Previously, Paula worked for Congresswoman McCollum in Washington, DC as a legislative assistant.  Her portfolio included the environment, energy, agriculture, transportation, and appropriations. Paula also spent several years with the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation in eastern Colorado and southern California. She will be based out of the St. Paul office. 

Place, Vaubel take new positions at MDA

MDA Commissioner David Frederickson has announced that Andrea Vaubel is the new Assistant Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Vaubel was previously the MDA’s Director of Legislative Affairs. Vaubel will oversee the Ag Marketing and Development Division and the Plant Protection Division. Also announced was that Whitney Place is the new Director of Legislative Affairs. Place was previously the executive assistant to Commissioner Frederickson, congrats to both.

Hartmann retiring

Dr. Bill Hartmann said recently that he will leave the state Board of Animal Health in June after 27 years — 15 years as state veterinarian. MFU has worked with Hartmann on many issues during his time at the Board from avian flu to bovine Tb and wish him the best and thank him for his service.

Zip Rail

This past week, Senator Matt Schmit facilitated a meeting in Cannon Falls with Commissioner Zelle and interested parties to discuss the proposed Zip Rail Line between Rochester and the Twin Cities. MFU has concerns about the use of eminent domain and other issues if the project were to move forward. Members can comment and get more information on the proposal to MNDOT through their website here: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/ziprail/contacts.html

Livestock Study Released

MDA has released its Livestock study that was part of a bill authored by Rep. Tim Miller and Sen. Lyle Koenen this past session and signed by Governor Dayton. The report outlines the state of the livestock industry in Minnesota and lays out some suggestions for the livestock industry. The report is pretty lengthy but has a good executive summary, you can read it here: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/news/~/media/Files/news/govrelations/legrpt-lvstk2015.pdf

Water Certification

MFU has been supportive of the MN Ag Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP), MDA will be seeking addiotnal funds this session for the program, which now has certified 87 farms totaling nearly 50,000 acres with over 200 new conservation practices, you can see more info here on program: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/awqcp

Buffer Update

The DNR continues along with its mapping project with a goal of having it completed by July 1st if not sooner. MFU is working to continue to clarify many aspects of the law including what is included, what are alternative practices allowed and how are property taxes handled on buffers. In addition BWSR will be seeking cost share dollars for farmers to plant buffers. You can track buffer updates here: http://bwsr.state.mn.us/buffers/

Wolf trapping to resume

MFU has been informed by both federal and state agencies that USDA and MN DNR have secured enough money to resume trapping of problem wolves beginning April 1st. There had been no money to run the trapping program except for in extreme cases, but thanks to the work of the agencies and our Congressional delegation funds have been made available. MFU continues to work on de-listing of wolves.

MNDOT issues

MNDOT has decided against seeking legislation this session to clarify language around seed plot demonstration signs on federal and state highways, MFU will continue to work with MNDOT on these issues and encourages members to contact me if you have concerns. MNDOT is also looking at language this session clarifying drone usage. MFU supports use of drones for agricultural pruposes and will work with agency on language.

Kandiyohi Co. Farmers Union

The Kandiyohi County Farmers Union is hosting a Spaghetti dinner this Sunday February 21st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Atwater Community Center in Atwater.

Pre-File Bills

The Minnesota House has pre-filed over 200 bills, here are some of the ag-related bills:

Wagenius introduced:

H. F. 2439, A bill for an act relating to agriculture; allowing local governments to prohibit or regulate pesticide use; amending Minnesota Statutes 2014, section 18B.02.

Bly introduced:

H. F. 2473, A bill for an act relating to agriculture; extending the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act until June 30, 2020; repealing a law that would have extended the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act until June 30, 2017, if the legislature did not meet in regular session during calendar year 2016; amending Minnesota Statutes 2015 Supplement, section 583.215; repealing Laws 2015, First Special Session chapter 4, article 2, section 81.

Anderson, P. introduced:

H. F. 2502, A bill for an act relating to agriculture; establishing a tractor rollover protection pilot grant program; appropriating money; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 17.

Daniels, Lueck, Kiel, Green and Anderson, P. introduced:

H. F. 2516, A bill for an act relating to agriculture; establishing a tractor rollover protection pilot grant program; appropriating nonstate money received by the commissioner of agriculture; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 17.

Miller, Lueck, Kiel, Rarick and Anderson, P. introduced:

H. F. 2517, A bill for an act relating to taxation; property; allowing land farmed by a beginning farmer to qualify for homestead classification; amending Minnesota Statutes 2014, section 273.124, subdivision 14.

Sundin introduced:

H. F. 2601, A bill for an act relating to capital investment; appropriating money for Rural Finance Authority agricultural loan programs; authorizing the sale and issuance of state bonds.

The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture Finance.

Green and Dettmer introduced:

H. F. 2603, A bill for an act relating to state government; modifying open meeting law; requiring open meeting with public comment prior to land acquisition; amending Minnesota Statutes 2014, section 13D.08, by adding a subdivision; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapters 13D; 16B.

MFU Open House

MFU will be hosting an Grand Opening Open House for our new office at 305 RoseLawn on Thursday March 17th from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Stop by and check out our new office right on 35E and RoseLawn. We’ll have great food, information on legislative issues, insurance, summer camps and more, RSVP to Laura@mfu.org . Hope you can make it.

That is all for now, as usual questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Gov’t Relations, MN Farmers Union

 

 

Thom Petersen

Director of Government Relations

Minnesota Farmers Union

thom@mfu.org

(612) 860-9462 (cell)

(651) 288-4067 (office)

www.mfu.org

@thommypetersen

 


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 1-21-16

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Thursday January 21, 2016

Governor Dayton announces water summit

Even though registration is now closed for the Governor’s Water Summit, which will take place on Saturday, February 27, 2016, you can still be added to a waiting list if you are interested in attending. The summit will focus public attention on the serious challenges facing Minnesota’s water supplies – in both rural and urban areas of the state – and continue statewide dialogue around steps that must be taken to address those challenges. The summit will bring together water quality experts, farmers, legislators, regulators, the business community, members of the public, local leaders, and a wide variety of other stakeholders. MFU President Peterson, VP Wertish and I are all registered and plan on attending; more information and a survey that go along with can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/governors-water-summit-registration-20738300816

Governor announce bonding recommendations

Governor Dayton also recently released his list of bonding recommendations. Included is one of MFU’s top priorities funding for the Rural Finance Authority (RFA). Governor Dayton’s Jobs Bill authorizes $35 million in loans to help farmers make investments in their land and equipment, and to help improve that land for future generations. For more information on the RFA check out: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/agfinance . You can also see more info on Governor’s requests that include transportation funding here: http://mn.gov/governor/newsroom/pressreleasedetail.jsp?id=102-177563

Farmer-Lender Mediation

MFU sent a letter to members of Senate and House committees with jurisdiction over agricultural policy this week urging support for extending the Farmer-Lender Mediation (FLM) program which sunsets this year. MFU has been a strong supporter of the program and feels that with the agricultural economy like it is today the program is as important and needed as ever. You can see more info on the program here: http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/farmer-lender-mediation/

MDA Accepting Value-Added Grant applications

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced recently that it is accepting applications for funding through the state’s Value Added Grant program. The grants are designed to help farmers, producers, and processors add value to their operations and the state’s agricultural economy. Governor Mark Dayton and the Legislature first established the grant program in 2013 to advance the Minnesota’s agricultural and renewable energy industries. Applicants have several options to boost their businesses with a portion of the $1 million available through the Value Added grants:

• Start, expand or update livestock product processing.

• Purchase equipment to start, upgrade, or modernize a business.

• Increase on-farm food safety.

• Increase processing and aggregating capacity to sell to schools, hospitals or others.

• Increase the use and processing of Minnesota agricultural products.

Eligible applicants must be involved in production, processing or marketing Minnesota agricultural products. Farmers, businesses, agricultural cooperatives, or local government entities operating farmers markets or food hubs are eligible. The grant reimburses up to 25 percent of the total project cost with a maximum award of $150,000 and a minimum of $1,000. Equipment purchases and facility improvements are eligible. Applications must be received no later than 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Apply online, www.mda.state.mn.us/valueadded.aspx or submit an application by e-mail, mail, or in-person. Another application round is scheduled for later summer/fall 2016. MFU has been supportive of using AGRI fund dollars for the Value-Added Grant Program.

Attorney General Swanson on wolves

December 15th Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson submitted Friend of the Court Amicus on behalf of the State of Minnesota in support of overturning the wolf delisting case to the U.S. Court of Appeals. MFU agrees that the wolf population is stable in Minnesota and they should be delisted. MFU is also working on a federal legislative solution, and we thank the Attorney General for her effort.

Crop plot seed signs

MNDOT is considering legislation this session that would clarify varietal and seed corn signs adjacent to interstate and primary highways may be erected under the following conditions:

(a) the device is located on demonstration plats;

(b) the device is located on private property;

(c) the device does not violate section 160.27 or section160.2715; and

(d) the devise does not reference an off-site location where the product may be sold.

Seed signs not complying with this provision may be removed by the department of transportation. Removed signs will be stored for retrieval for a minimum of 30 days prior to disposal. MFU is looking at this legislation and members who have questions about this should contact me.

Cruz leaving MDA

MN Dept. of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Santo Cruz announced this week he is leaving MDA to join the Minnesota Department of Human Services as Assistant Commissioner. MFU appreciates Commissioner Cruz’s work at MDA and wishes him luck!

Ecklund appointed to Ag Finance Committee

Newly elected Rep. Rob Ecklund has been appointed to the Agriculture Finance Committee replacing the late Rep. David Dill. Ecklund represents district 3A and is from International Falls and has a strong interest in agriculture. MFU look forward to working with him.

Buffer Update

MFU continues to meet with legislators, administration and other stakeholders to further clarify the buffer law passed last session. Among the issues MFU is working on are cost-sharing for seeding, property taxes, financial incentives, appeal process and what waters are included. Members who have questions please feel free to contact me. Also check out the DNR mapping website for updates: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/buffers/index.html

DNR Elk Plan

Comments are due tomorrow on the DNR Elk Management Plan.  DNR manages elk to maintain a free-ranging, wild population in northwestern Minnesota. Current elk population goals were established in the 2009 elk management plan, which the DNR developed with local advisory groups. The 2016-2020 draft elk management plan reflects a priority to maintain and further increase landowner acceptance of elk while increasing the herd sizes in Kittson County and bringing the Grygla herd up to the population goal established in 2009. This draft plan includes input from elk advisory work groups made up of a broad spectrum of stakeholders in northwestern Minnesota. Email comments: elkplan.dnr@state.mn.us MFU plans on submitting comments on behalf of our members in Kittson, Roseau and Marshall Counties.

Precinct Caucus

MFU urges members to attend their precinct caucuses on Tuesday March 1st. Caucuses are a great chance for farmers to participate in the grassroots level of politics and talk issues and interact with candidates. For more information on caucuses: http://mnvotesinfo.sos.state.mn.us/voters/precinct-caucus/

NFU on MicroLoan Program

A federal microloan program designed to assist underserved farmers – including beginning farmers and ranchers, veterans, small producers and other underserved communities in agriculture – was expanded today.  And that is great news for rural America, says National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson.  “Beginning and underserved farmers face the same financial challenges when entering agriculture as established producers, but do so with considerably weaker balance sheets. These challenges include high land prices, rising input and equipment costs, and living expenses,” said Johnson. Since its inception in 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s microloan program has provided more than 16,800 low-interest loans, totaling over $373 million, to producers across the country. Today’s announcement will broaden its reach by expanding the program’s eligibility requirements, simplifying the application process, and expediting approval of real estate loans.

NFU Convention

The National Farmers Union convention will be held in Minnesota at the Radisson Blu at the Mall of America March 5-8th. MFU will be hosting a welcome reception on Sunday night at Radisson Blu and NFUPAC will host a reception with several great guests Sunday night, watch for more information on the convention at www.mfu.org and our Facebook page. Convention info can be found at: http://www.nfu.org/event/2016convention

That’s all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Gov’t Relations, MN Farmers Union

 

 

Thom Petersen

Director of Government Relations

Minnesota Farmers Union

thom@mfu.org

(612) 860-9462 (cell)

(651) 288-4067 (office)

www.mfu.org

@thommypetersen


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 8-18-15

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Tuesday August 18, 2015

 

2015 Minnesota Farmers Union “Hot Topics” for county conventions!

Don’t like the new buffer law? Love the new buffer law? Got an idea to make it better? As a member of Minnesota Farmers Union you have the opportunity to make your voice heard on this and other emerging issues at your local county convention. Resolutions passed at local county conventions late this summer and early fall are forwarded to the MFU policy committee and ultimately to the MFU state convention in November.  So take the opportunity make your voice heard, MFU appreciates the input we get from our grassroots based membership! A list of county conventions can be found at www.mfu.org/events . Here is a look at just some of the hot topics for this year’s conventions:

State Issues

-The newly passed “Governor Dayton buffer initiative”, what do MFU members like about it, what changes need to be made if any?

-Do MFU members support changes made to small energy project net metering laws this year at state legislature, and what further changes need to be made?

-What issues, if any, need to be addressed so that drones can be used effectively to help agriculture? The legislature has looked at different legislation that could impact agriculture; trespass, size etc.

-Do MFU members support legislation to make it a misdemeanor and assess a civil fine to mow and bale public road ditches before August 1st? This was legislation that was introduced but died this year, but will likely come back.

-Do MFU members still support Farmer-Lender Mediation Act? If so do they support raising the current mediation threshold from $5,000 to $75,000 or somewhere in between? Bank associations and others say this program which sunsets next year is not needed anymore.

-Do MFU members support reinstating the MN Pollution Control Citizens Board that was eliminated this year? Or modifying it somehow?

-Do MFU members support or are they aware of MDA’s update to the Fertilizer Nutrient Management plan that could place restrictions in some areas of the state on nitrogen application, or have ideas to further reduce nitrates in Minnesota water supply?

-Do MFU members have suggestions regarding avian influenza that our organization should be looking at?

-What are the agricultural education issues that need to be addressed?

Federal Issues

-Do MFU members support voluntary COOL label? Congress is working make COOL WTO compliant, and a voluntary label may be the best option.

-Do MFU members continue to oppose the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP) Agreement?

-What do MFU members think about the recently released Renewable Fuels (RFS) standards?

-Do MFU members support a National organic checkoff?

-What is the next step MFU members would like to see our organization take on Waters of the Unites States (WOTUS)?

MFU Encourages Property tax resolutions

With nearly $1 billion dollars left on the bottom line of the Minnesota state budget, Minnesota legislators will surely be looking at different kinds of tax relief next legislative session. One of MFU’s major disappointments was the fact that the Legislature and administration was unable to come to agreement and pass a tax bill that included property tax relief. MFU had been supporting several provisions that would have provided property tax relief for farmers. The House had passed a provision authored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski that would have provided a credit equal to 50% of school capital improvement levies for taxable year 2016. This provision had bipartisan support and while it costs money it is easy to manage and treats districts fairly across the board. The Senate had put in a provision championed by Sen. Rod Skoe that would provide an income tax credit up to $2,000 per year when property taxes rose more than 8% in one year.  MFU policy has long supported making capital improvement levies for schools the same as operating levies which are calculated on the “house, garage and one acre”, However, these are two of the most likely ideas to move forward next year. If you like or dislike these ideas or feel they could be modified submit a resolution to your county convention. Have other property tax or tax issue ideas? Submit a resolution at your county convention. As a member of MFU you have the ability to make your voice heard and change policies! Members who have questions or ideas for resolutions and need help with wording should feel free to contact me.

Livestock grants available

One of the top items MFU supported this past legislative session was the funding of livestock investment grants that are a part of the AGRI fund at the MN Dept. of Agriculture and now MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson asks livestock producers to apply for a portion of $2 million in grants available for on-farm improvements. “Livestock Investment Grants help farmers stay competitive and reinvest in their industry. Last year, we had 120 livestock farmers receive grants to improve their operation,” said Frederickson. Qualifying producers are reimbursed 10 percent of the first $500,000 of investment, with a minimum investment of $4,000. Qualifying expenditures include the purchase, construction or improvement of livestock buildings or facilities. Fencing, feeding and waste management equipment is also covered. Producers who suffered a loss due to natural disaster may also apply. The grant will not pay for livestock, land purchases, or debt refinancing. Past applicants who did not receive an award need to reapply for the 2016 program. These grants are incentives to start projects, which must begin after August 1, 2015. Applications for operations with farmers transitioning into livestock, beginning farmers, and those with a positive environmental impact receive priority. Details and guidelines of the grant are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/livestockinvestmentgrant. The application deadline is December 18, 2015. Please apply online: http://tinyurl.com/mdalivestock .

Ag Water Certification Program expands

MFU also has been a supporter of the MN Ag Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) and now Farmers across Minnesota can take advantage of a state program that celebrates and ensures protection of the state’s water resources. With the help of a five-year, $9 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and legislation enacted earlier this year, the MAWQCP is formally transitioning from four pilot areas to being available to any agricultural producer statewide. According to MDA Assistant Commissioner Matthew Wohlman, flexibility is key to the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program’s success. MAWQCP was designed by an advisory committee of independent stakeholders and implemented by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) in partnership with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and local public, private and non-profit partners. The program is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. Farmers and landowners who implement and maintain approved farm management practices are certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of 10 years.  The MAWQCP certifies farmers and landowners for managing their land in a way that protects water quality through a whole-farm assessment that evaluates:

§ Physical field characteristics,

§ Nutrient management factors,

§ Tillage management factors,

§ Pest management factors,

§ Irrigation and tile drainage management, and

§ Conservation practices.

Producers interested in becoming certified also receive priority status for technical and financial assistance. The MAWQCP puts producers together with local professionals and the new on-line field assessment tool to determine where risks to water quality exist on their farm, and empowers them to fix those risks when they’re found, at the same avoiding the expense, time and trouble of applying half-measures or implementing misplaced actions.  Anyone interested in learning more about MAWQCP, the assessment process, or becoming certified should contact the MDA at 651-201-6489 or MDA.MAWQCP@state.mn.us.

COOL retaliation overstated

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson assured key leaders of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee that recent estimates by the Chamber of Commerce and others regarding the retaliatory tariffs submitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) were way off the mark. “The Chamber [of Commerce] might be pleased to learn that the $3 billion of retaliatory tariffs claimed by our Canadian friends are tremendously overstated. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) recently provided a report to the WTO that highlighted several flaws in the Canadian and Mexican reports and more accurately estimated a level of retaliation closer to $90 million,” noted Johnson in a recent letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow. “That comes out to under $0.28 per person per year in the United States, or about one-third of a penny per pound of beef and pork in the U.S.” The U.S. Trade Representative has said that both options being debated in the Senate – the Roberts amendment and the Hoeven-Stabenow amendment – ‘have the potential to constitute compliance with U.S. WTO obligations.’  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has also praised the bipartisan compromise bill. 

 

Industrial Hemp

 

MFU has been in discussions with MDA on how best to move forward with legislation that passed the legislature this past year allowing Minnesota to conduct pilot scale studies on industrial hemp production. MFU was a supporter of this legislation which was chief authored by Rep. Mary Franson and Sen. Kent Eken. MFU is interested in finding farmers who are potentially interested in being part of a pilot project if you are or know of someone; please feel free to contact me. MFU will continue to work on this issue.

Buffer update

This past week MFU President Doug Peterson, VP Gary Wertish and I met with BWSR Executive Director John Jaschke and MDA Commissioner Frederickson to discuss a proposed new CREP for Minnesota and to talk other issues including buffers. Director Jaschke informed MFU that information on the buffer issue is in the process of migrating to the BWSR website from the DNR website, checkout here for more info: http://bwsr.state.mn.us/buffers/ Lots of good information here. Members who have questions or ideas about the buffer initiative are encouraged to bring those ideas to their Farmers Union County Convention.

Agritourism bill takes effect

Legislation MFU supported this past year known as the “Agritoursim” bill went into effect on August 1st of 2015. The legislation was authored by Rep. Paul Anderson and Sen. Matt Schmit. The bill is intended to provide farms that invite the public to their farm some basic liability relief from certain inherent risks. The law requires an agritourism professional to post plainly visible signs at one or more prominent locations in the premises where the agritourism activity takes place that include a warning of the inherent risks of agritourism activity. There is no specification on the size of the sign. MFU will be working to suggest wording and anyone can print the signs. You can read the legislation here: Agritoursim bill

AURI announces new ED

Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) has announced the appointment of Shannon M. Schlecht as its new Executive Director. Schlecht, who most recently served as Vice President of Policy for U.S. Wheat Associates in Arlington, VA, will officially join the organization in September, when he will assume overall strategic and operational responsibility for the Institute’s staff, programs and execution of its mission. Schlecht has extensive background in agriculture, policy influence, market development, international trade, strategic planning and management. He served as wheat industry representative to the USDA Secretary of Agriculture and U.S. Trade Representative for the Grains, Feed, Oilseeds, and Planting Seeds Agricultural Trade Advisory Council, was the liaison to multiple agricultural coalitions, and staff lead for national committees covering trade policy and biotechnology as well as a food aid working group. Internationally, he conducted initiatives to develop U.S. wheat exports in over 40 countries. He holds Bachelor’s and Master of Science degrees from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.

Emmer announces Town Hall

Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) announced today that he will be hosting two in-person town halls during the August district work period. Emmer will host a town hall in Carver County on August 18thand in Washington County on August 27th. "My staff and I strive to be transparent, accountable, and most importantly--accessible," said Emmer. "This is an opportunity for my constituents to ask me questions about the issues that matter most to them and to hear from me directly about my work in Congress."

When:          August 18th, 7:00-8:00pm

Where:        Carver County

                     Waconia City Hall

                     201 S. Vine Street

 

When:          August 27th, 7:00-8:00pm

Where:        Washington County

                     Forest Lake City Hall

                     1408 Lake Street South

 

 For more information, contact Emmer’s Otsego office at (763)-241-6848.

Poster leaving MDA

Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Charlie Poster has announced he is leaving MDA at the end of the month for other opportunities. MFU wishes him well and thanks him for his work especially on the AGRI fund, wolves and biofuels.

PCA Citizens Board Vacancy

The newly created Governor’s Committee to advise the MN PCA has eight vacancies for public members:

HOW TO APPLY

Submit an Application

Complete the application form.

Applicants should include the following documents:

• Open Appointments Application Form (completed, signed and dated)

• Letter of Interest

• Resume or Biography

Applications may be submitted online, by email to Open.Appointments@state.mn.us, or by mail or in person to:

Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State

180 State Office Building

100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

St Paul, MN 55155-1299

Newly created Ag Research, Transfer panel

The newly created Ag Research, Education, Extension, and Technology Transfer Advisory Panel has four vacancies: The four open positions are: one Representative of an Association of Primary Manufacturers of Forest Products; one Representative of Organic or Sustainable Agriculture; one Representative of Statewide Environment and Natural Resource Conservation Organizations; and, one Representative of Agriculture Industry Statewide.  The Panel provides advice to the Commissioner of Agriculture about making grants that will increase long-term agricultural productivity by investing in infrastructure, vision, and accountability in agricultural research and technology transfer, agriculture rapid response, and agricultural education. The Commissioner of Agriculture makes the appointments. Meeting dates and times are not set yet.   Application and instructions for these seats are available at http://www.sos.state.mn.us/index.aspx?page=308  Applications must be submitted to the Secretary of State by August 25.  The Secretary of State’s announcement of these vacancies can be found at their website. This is the result of legislation that passed this year creating the panel that MFU supported.

MN Wolf population remains stable

Results from the latest wolf population survey show no significant change in Minnesota’s wolf population during the past three winters, according to the Department of Natural Resources. The latest survey results estimate that within Minnesota’s wolf range there were 374 wolf packs and 2,221 wolves last winter. Although this year’s specific population estimate is lower than the previous winter’s estimate of 2,423 wolves, there has been no statistically significant change in population size during the past three years. The population survey is conducted in mid-winter near the low point of the annual population cycle. Immediately following birth of pups each spring, the wolf population typically doubles, though many pups do not survive to the following winter. Minnesota’s wolf population remains above the state’s minimum management goal of at least 1,600 wolves and is above the federal recovery goal of 1,251 to 1,400. Although the population estimate was not significantly different from last year, wolf packs observed were slightly larger this winter than in previous years, increasing from an average of 4.4 to 5.1 wolves per pack. Also, wolf packs now appear to be using larger territories, with average territory size increasing from 58 square miles in 2014 to about 73 square miles last winter. Because white-tailed deer are the primary food source for Minnesota’s wolves, the wolf population tends to follow deer population trends. Visit the DNR website to find the full report, an FAQ and an overview of wolf management in the state, including the wolf management plan. MFU was pleased to see the legislature increase funding this session for the livestock depredation program. Reps. Fabian, Rarick, Sundin, Persell and Sens. Saxhaug and Stumpf were among legislators working to get increased funding.

State Fair

Be sure to check out the Minnesota Farmers Union and Minnesota Cooks webpages, Facebook and Twitter feeds for updates on key events and happenings and stop by the MFU booth at the Minnesota State Fair August 27-Sept. 7th and have a cup of coffee or a mocha bar!

Thom Petersen, Director of Gov’t Relations, MFU


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 6-16-16

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Tuesday June 16, 2015

 

Legislative session finally wraps up!

 

The Minnesota Legislature recently wrapped up the 2015 legislative session with mixed results for agriculture according to the Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU).  MFU President Doug Peterson says that “MFU was pleased to see many of its top priorities enacted into law this year including strong investments in partnering with farmers through livestock investment grants and value-added projects, increased funding for state meat inspection and wolf depredation as well as the creation of new incentives for advanced biofuel and biochemical projects. “ Peterson also adds that “MFU was pleased that the legislature came together to adequately address the current outbreak of avian influenza.” MFU was also pleased to see passage of some policy initiatives including the new Agritourism law which will offer some basic liability protection to farmers who invite the public to their farm, as well as Minnesota after many years adopt a program that will allow pilot projects for growing industrial hemp. In addition, MFU was disappointed that even with a $2 billion dollar state budget surplus the parties could not come together to offer some property tax relief to farmers or pass a comprehensive transportation bill.  MFU also has concerns with changes that were made by the legislature this session to net metering laws for energy projects and the elimination of the Pollution Control Agency (PCA) Citizens Board.  MFU will also be working with members and state agencies to assess the impact of the newly passed Governor’s buffer initiative which puts a timeline on existing law and will have farmers installing buffers of between 16.5 to 50 feet or using an alternative practice. The next step in the policy process for MFU is our 50 plus county conventions that will be held later this summer and early fall where farmer-members will have the opportunity to discuss legislation and suggest tweaks or initiatives for next year.

 

Net Metering Changes

 

In the final Jobs and Energy bill that passed in the special session were significant changes to net metering for energy projects such as wind and solar. Governor Dayton’s statement on the issue is: “Protecting Incentives for Solar Energy (Net Metering) – This session, House Republicans pushed to undermine Minnesota’s innovative renewable energy policies by changing the state’s Net Metering Policy, which dates back to 1983. Net metering works by requiring energy utilities to pay you a fair market price for electricity generated on home solar panels or wind turbines. The Republican changes will remove incentives for the use of wind and solar power, and create unreasonable barriers to future progress. Governor Dayton will continue to advocate for a policy that allows Minnesotans to access clean, affordable, and reliable energy.” These changes are for projects going forward from enactment date.  MFU will continue to work on this issue during county conventions.

 

Wind Easement language not included in omnibus bill

 

The omnibus Jobs and Energy bill did not include language MFU had opposed that was included in the House Jobs and Energy bill that would have sped up the sunset date to this year for the current Minnesota wind easement law which is currently set at 7 years. The House bill would have created a system Minnesota had before of long term and perpetual easements. This provision does sunset in 2017.

 

Legacy bill passes

 

The Legislature also passed the Legacy bill which had a lot of dollars of interest to agriculture that MFU supported including: -

-$2,586,000 the first year and $2,585,000 in the second year to the MN Dept. of Agriculture for monitoring and evaluating trends in the concentration of nitrate in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation; monitoring for pesticides when nitrate is detected; promoting, developing, and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices; assessing best management practice adoption; education and technical support from University of Minnesota Extension.

- $2,500,000 the first year is to implement the Minnesota agricultural water quality certification program statewide. The commissioner of agriculture shall consult with the United States Department of Agriculture to determine whether other state spending would qualify as a match for the agricultural water quality certification program funds available from the federal government.

- $1,000,000 the first year is for grants to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota to fund the Forever Green Agriculture Initiative and to protect the state's natural resources while increasing the efficiency, profitability, and productivity of Minnesota farmers by incorporating perennial and winter-annual crops into existing agricultural practices.

- $11,000,000 the first year and $11,000,000 the second year are for payments to soil and water conservation districts for the purposes of Minnesota Statutes, sections 103C.321 and 103C.331. From this appropriation, each soil and water conservation district shall receive an increase in its base funding of $100,000 per year. Money remaining after the base increase is available for matching grants to soil and water conservation districts based on county allocations to soil and water conservation districts. The board and other agencies may reduce the amount of grants to a county by an amount equal to any reduction in the county's allocation to a soil and water conservation district from the county's previous-year allocation when the board determines that the reduction was disproportionate. The second-year appropriation cancels if new buffer requirements are not enacted in 2015.

 

NFU on Vote to repeal COOL

 

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson called the recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) a “disappointing, knee-jerk overreaction” and urged the U.S. Senate to continue its thoughtful handling of the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute. Johnson also noted that NFU will work with Congress on a clear path forward that will both resolve the WTO dispute and continue to provide consumers with accurate information about the origin of their food. “The House leadership is not interested in any reasonable solutions and blocked all amendments.” Johnson noted that in past disputes, WTO members found ways to work together to arrive at a resolution that worked for all parties. “Unfortunately, today’s action by the U.S. House of Representatives does not work towards a resolution that maintains the integrity of COOL and satisfies WTO obligations. “We call upon the U.S. Senate to avoid the rush to judgment demonstrated by the House today and work with COOL supporters on a viable alternative that will finally bring this long process to closure,” he said. Johnson said family farmers and ranchers across the country appreciated the work of: Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota; Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut; Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts; Chellie Pingree, D-Maine; Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio; Rick Nolan, D-Minnesota; Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas; and others who stood strong for COOL and the right to know the origin of our food. “We greatly appreciate their continued willingness to stand up for America’s consumers and farm families,” said Johnson.

 

Walz on COOL

 

Recently, Representative Tim Walz (D-MN), voted against the hasty, premature measure to fully repeal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements for beef, pork, and chicken. COOL requires products to be labeled so that consumers know where the meat they buy at the grocery story was born, raised, and slaughtered. While the U.S. Courts upheld COOL requirements after numerous challenges, the World Trade Organization—an international organization not based in the U.S.—ruled against America’s COOL requirements for beef and pork.  “As a consumer, you deserve to know where the hamburger you buy for supper comes from, whether that’s the U.S. or elsewhere,” said Walz. “Repealing COOL outright for beef, pork, and chicken is a short-sighted, knee-jerk reaction to the World Trade Organization’s action. We have time to be thoughtful about this and find a workable solution that gives consumers the information they want and deserve, while avoiding retaliation from Canada and Mexico. As we move forward, it is my hope that the Majority will realize their short-sighted mistake and work with us to take a more thoughtful approach. Consumers deserve nothing less.” Currently, over 60 other countries across the globe have successful mandatory labeling requirements and Walz believes that we should look at those programs to find a solution that works. The WTO ruling has no effect on COOL requirements for numerous other products, including fruits, vegetables, lamb, venison, and seafood, among others.

 

NFU on Fast Track

 

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson applauded the recent House vote that effectively kills – at least for now – Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as fast track authority. TPA would grant the administration the ability to secretly negotiate trade deals and only permit an up or down vote by Congress, with zero amendments. “Today’s vote was a clear signal that the fast track authorities being negotiated for the president simply do not live up to their hype,” said Johnson. “NFU is hopeful this action gives Congress the time to rethink granting the president the ability to bypass Congress’s constitutional check on trade negotiations, an ability that has served as a major setback for America’s workers, family farmers and ranchers and this nation’s future prosperity.” Johnson noted that in the past, TPA has fast-tracked trade deals that have consistently increased trade deficits, exported jobs and lowered wages for Americans. Minnesota voted on party lines with DFLers voting against TPA and GOP members voting for.

 

Peterson votes against TPA

 

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson recently made the following statement after voting against Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation in the House of Representatives. “I cannot support TPA until the full scope of the pending trade agreement is made clear. I still do not have adequate answers about the agreement’s potential gains or losses, especially those to agriculture and rural communities.  “The administration says nothing in these trade agreements is going to force the United States to change it laws. But the House this week did just that, voting to repeal country of origin labeling because of trade retaliation scare tactics. Given the outcomes of past trade agreements I believe it is important that the full details are known and a thorough review is complete before moving forward.”

 

ND Farmers Union on corporate farm law change

 

Many members in NW Minnesota have asked me about the corporate farm law change in North Dakota, here is news from today’s Fargo Forum:   A North Dakota Farmers Union official says the group has collected enough signatures to force a referendum on a bill signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple in March that would relax the state's anti-corporate farming law for dairy and swine operations. The group had 90 days to gather 13,452 valid signatures to get the measure on the June 2016 ballot. Thursday is the deadline. They plan to deliver the signed petitions to the secretary of state's office Tuesday and have scheduled a 1:30 p.m. news conference at the Capitol to announce how many signatures were collected, said Kayla Pulvermacher, a lobbyist for the group. The 60-member NDFU board of governors voted unanimously March 27 to seek a referendum on Senate Bill 2351. The new law is set to take effect Aug. 1, but a referendum would delay it until after the vote. It would relax the current anti-corporate farming law approved by voters in 1932 to allow a nonfamily corporation or limited liability company to own a dairy or swine facility with at least 50 cows or 500 swine on up to 640 acres. The current law allows for family corporations and LLCs with up to 15 related shareholders.

 

That is all for now, MFU has many summer and day camps coming up as well as several farm picnics checkout www.mfu.org/events for more information. As usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 5-1-15

 

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday May 1st, 2015

 

Largest MN Grown released

 

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has announced the release of the 2015 Minnesota Grown Directory. The newest version is packed with a record breaking 1,027 member listings leading to local food and products from Minnesota producers. It includes farms, farmers markets, berry patches, wineries, locally raised plants, and more. The Directory remains organized by regions, so consumers can find what is available in their area quickly and easily. Specific products or farms are listed in either the product or alphabetical index located in the back. The Directory also includes five recipes and regionally inspired restaurant recommendations, featured by Minnesota Cooks. Minnesota Cooks is an education outreach program of Minnesota Farmers Union that celebrates Minnesota’s dedicated family farmers and talented, local food favoring, chefs and restaurant owners.  You can order free, printed copies of the Minnesota Grown Directory by calling Explore Minnesota Tourism at 1-888-TOURISM. You can also order your copy online or look up local farms at www.minnesotagrown.com. MFU is also pleased to see full funding for MN Grown in the omnibus Senate and House Ag Finance bills.

Property Tax legislation

 

The House omnibus tax bill passed this week includes language MFU supports that would provide for a property tax credit on all property classified as agricultural equal to 50 percent of the tax on the property attributable to school district bonded debt levies. The Senate omnibus Tax bill takes a different approach to property tax relief by establishing a new targeted agricultural land property tax credit. Property classified in whole or in part as class 2a agricultural property, in both the prior and current year, is eligible for the credit if the gross property taxes payable on that portion of the property classified as agricultural increase by more than eight percent over the property taxes payable in the prior year on the same property and the amount of the increase is $200 or more. The amount of the credit shall be equal to the amount of the increase over the greatest of eight percent of the prior year’s property taxes, or $200, with a maximum credit of $2,000. The Senate bill also includes language that requires the commissioners of agriculture and revenue to conduct a study and prepare a report on the possibility of valuing agricultural land for property tax purposes based on the value of agricultural commodities produced minus the cost of agricultural production. MFU is supportive of these and will continue to work on these issues; However the Tax bills face a lot of obstacles and differences before session ends.

 

Agriculture Finance bills

 

The Senate passed its bill that contains the omnibus agriculture appropriations last week and the House will vote on the omnibus agriculture bill this coming Monday. Rep. Rod Hamilton is the chief author of the bill that contains many provisions that are MFU priorities. Included are increased funding for wolf depredation and meat inspection as well as creation of new incentives and programs for advanced biofuels, and basically base funding for AURI, AGRI and other core MDA functions.

 

Buffer Update

 

MFU continues to meet with administration officials and legislators on the buffer initiative proposed by Governor Mark Dayton. Recently, MFU President Doug Peterson and I joined other farm leaders in sitting down with the Governor to discuss issues around the proposal. Again, although despite the bill not meeting committee policy deadlines, talks continue since the Governor has made it a priority. Members who have specific questions or comments should continue to feel free to contact MFU. MFU is committing to working to improve water quality and has been working on supporting language that would help the Governor accomplish his goal and at the same time be workable for farmers.

 

Wind easement sunset

 

Included in the House omnibus energy bill that is moving through the process is a provision that would speed up the sunset of Minnesota’s law regarding wind easements that landowners sign. The current law limits easements to 7 years and is due to sunset next year. The sunset has been extended before and MFU policy supports the current law and would therefore oppose this language. The language is not in the Senate bill and MFU will continue to work on this issue.

 

Avian Influenza

 

MFU supported legislation authored by Rep. David Bly and Sen. Kevin Dahle that passed both bodies this week and was sent to the Governor that provides emergency funding to ensure that state agencies notably the Department of Agriculture and Board of Animal Health have the resources they need to attack the curent Avian Influenza outbreak. The Legislature will continue to work on funding for the 2016-2017 biennium as it is now being reported that the strain of influenza may afflict the bird population for several years to come.

 

ZIP Rail language moving

 

The House Omnibus Tax bill that passed the House this week also includes language authored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) that would ban state and local governments from using public money for passenger rail service between the Twin Cities and Rochester. The bill also bans the use of eminent domain by state and local governments as well as a private railroad for the Zip Rail Project. MFU supports this legislation.

 

House adopts omnibus Legacy bill

 

Yesterday the House by a vote of 97-31 adopted the omnibus House Legacy bill. Of interest to MFU members was an amendment by Rep. Rick Hansen that would have increased funding to the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, which encourages farmers to implement conservation practices to protect the state’s water. It failed on a roll-call vote. According to Session Daily Hansen said the program funds “real projects on the ground for real farmers” and was having a positive impact. He also said by not fully funding the program, the state would lose out on $9 million in federal money that could be brought in to match state dollars. Torkelson agreed the program had merit, but said he was uncomfortable fully funding it until questions about how the program could feasibly be rolled out statewide were answered. The bill also appropriates $20 million for the Board of Water and Soil Resources to acquire restore or preserve permanent conservation on riparian buffers to keep water on the land;

 

Veteran’s language in Senate bill

 

Language that MFU has been supporting that appropriates $150,000 in fiscal year 2016 and $600,000 in fiscal year 2017 to establish a veterans-to-agriculture pilot program at South Central College, North Mankato campus is included in the Senate version of the omnibus higher education bill. Sen. Kathy Sheran is the author of the provision. The House did not include the language, but MFU is hopeful this is something that could be agreed to in conference committee; Rep. Clark Johnson is the House author.

 

Farmers Market legislation

 

Language MFU has supported is also contained in both the House and Senate omnibus State Government Finance bills that establish the health eating, here at home program, to provide incentives for low-income Minnesotans to use SNAP benefits for healthy purchases at Minnesota-based farmers markets. The bill also provides for the Minnesota Humanities Commission to make grants to nonprofit organizations that work with Minnesota-based farmers markets. The language has been carried by Rep. Sarah Anderson and Sen. Jeff Hayden.

 

2015 Nitrogen Management Plan Now Available

 

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has finalized the Minnesota Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan. The plan and factsheets are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/nfmp . The Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan is the state's blueprint for the prevention or minimization of the impacts of nitrogen fertilizer on groundwater. The MDA conducted an extensive process to develop the plan that included: 1) an advisory panel; 2) public notice for comments; 3) statewide listening sessions; and 4) numerous outreach events. The final Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan incorporated the decisions that were addressed in the Response to Comments into the final plan that will include limiting or banning fall application of nitrogen in some areas. MFU hopes to discuss this plan more at this fall’s county and state conventions.

 

NFU on TPA

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson called the introduction of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill this past week a one way ticket to bigger trade deficits, more lost jobs and more economic devastation to America’s family farmers and ranchers. “TPA is just the continuation of the same old thing, trade agreements that make huge promises of prosperity and jobs to the American public and deliver nothing but bigger deficits, exported jobs and lost domestic agricultural sales,” said Johnson, whose organization has long opposed TPA. TPA — also known as “Fast Track”— grants the administration the ability to negotiate trade deals and only allows Congress to have an up or down vote on the final package, regardless of how many objectionable provisions it contains. The bill was introduced today by Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, in the U.S. Senate, and a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representative was introduced by Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. TPA has drawn heavy criticism from both sides of the aisle because it forces Congress to all but remove itself from the trade negotiation process, a constitutional duty that many in Congress take very seriously. Johnson noted that the U.S. trade deficit for last year totaled over $500 billion and these agreements will only add to that number, which is a net drag on our economy by a full 3 percent. “We favor a trade policy that prioritizes domestic food production and goods supply chains in lieu of policies that put family farmers and ranchers out of business and send some of our best jobs, and the dreams of America’s middleclass, overseas,” he said.

 

MFU Women’s Gathering

Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) is hosting several community leadership meetings focusing on women’s leadership on several Saturdays through the spring of 2015. Women from all across Minnesota will get together with other women leaders in their communities to build connections and network with other to help strengthen their leadership and drive in their communities. The next gathering is this Saturday at Four Daughters Vineyard in Spring Valley at 11 a.m. See the full list at www.mfu.org

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Gov’t Relations, MN Farmers Union


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 4-20-15

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Monday April 20, 2015

 

House Property Tax Division Report

 

This past week the House Property Tax Division of the Tax Committee passed its division report and sent it to the full Tax Committee and the report is being rolled into the omnibus Tax bill. Included in the Division report are two pieces MFU is very supportive of; property tax relief for farmers from school capital improvement levies and language that limits the use of public funds and eminent domain for the proposed Rochester to Twin Cities “Zip” Rail line. Both of these provisions are championed by Rep. Steve Drazkowski. The Senate Tax Committee also this past week heard S.F. 2004 that provides for a property tax credit on all agricultural property equal to 50 percent of the tax on the property attributable to school district debt levies, which is the companion to Drazkowski’s bill. The Committee held the bill over for possible inclusion in the Senate omnibus tax bill.

 

Section 179

 

The House Tax Committee also heard H.F. 2153 this past week authored by Rep. Greg Davids that according to House Research allows individual and corporate taxpayers to carry over section 179 expensing subtractions that exceed taxable income for up to ten tax years. In calculating the carryover, the bill specifies that the section 179 expensing subtraction is the last subtraction allowed in determining Minnesota taxable income. Minnesota has not conformed to temporary federal increases in section 179 expensing allowances above the $25,000 limit that is a permanent feature of the Internal Revenue Code. Instead, Minnesota requires affected taxpayers to add 80 percent of any amount claimed above $25,000 to Minnesota taxable income on its Minnesota return, and then subtract one-fifth of the amount added back in each of the next five tax years. In that way, the full amount claimed at the federal level is ultimately allowed at the state level—20 percent in the first year and 16 percent per year in the following five tax years. For tax year 2014, the federal allowance for section 179 expensing was $500,000; the federal amount will be $25,000 in tax year 2015 unless Congress extends the increased amount.  This arrangement can result in a taxpayer being unable to claim or use the full allowance to reduce their taxable income for Minnesota purposes. This occurs if a business or farmer has taxable income in one of the five years that’s less than the 16-percent deduction they are claiming (these amounts may be cumulative amounts from several years of section 179 deductions that exceed $25,000 limit). Because current law does not allow these “excess” deduction amounts to carry over to a later year, they are essentially “lost”—that is, they can never be used to reduce taxable income used to compute Minnesota tax. This bill allows these amounts to be carried over for up to ten tax years. Members who have questions about this should contact me, the bill was held over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

 

Budget bills

 

Both the House and Senate version of omnibus bills that contain funding for agriculture are moving through their respective bodies. MFU is pleased to see funding for many of our priorities including more dollars for wolf depredation, more funding to MDA to increase meat plant inspectors and funding for agricultural education. Among the sticking points will be the use of AGRI funds, each body takes different approaches, MFU will be working to ensure strong funding for priorities of livestock grants, value-added grants, biofuels and farm to school programs within AGRI. Members who have specific questions about any budget items should feel free to contact me.

 

Buffer Update

MFU continues to meet with administration officials and legislators on the buffer initiative proposed by Governor Mark Dayton. Friday MFU President Doug Peterson and I joined other farm leaders in sitting down with the Governor to discuss issues around the proposal. Again, although despite the bill not meeting committee policy deadlines, talks continue since the Governor has made it a priority. Members who have specific questions or comments should continue to feel free to contact MFU.

 

Agritourism update

 

Legislation authored by Sen. Matt Schmit that would provide farmers who engage in ‘agritourism” events, which involve having visitors to their farm some basic liability protection from certain inherent risks has passed the Senate by a 63-0 vote. In the House the language is contained in the House omnibus agriculture policy bill authored by Rep. Paul Anderson. MFU supports the legislation.

 

Wind easement sunset

 

Included in the House omnibus energy bill that is moving through the process is a provision that would speed up the sunset of Minnesota’s law regarding wind easements that landowners sign. The current law limits easements to 7 years and is due to sunset next year. The sunset has been extended before and MFU policy supports the current law and would therefore oppose this language. The language is not in the Senate bill and MFU will continue to work on this issue.

 

Avian Influenza

 

Late last week, Rep. David Bly (DFL-Northfield) introduced House File 2225 to fund an emergency response to the avian influenza epidemic facing turkey farms throughout Minnesota. The bill would fund Minnesota’s portion of the emergency response not covered with federal funds. The Department of Agriculture would receive $514,000 and the Board of Animal Health would receive $379,000 to carry out their duties. Governor Dayton issued Emergency Executive Order 15-06 last week and the legislature is now responding. Rep. David Bly moved to suspend the rules and immediately take up H.F. 2225. He released the following statement after the House unanimously passed HF 2225: “I’m pleased that this measure was acted on as swiftly as it could be. Minnesota is the nation’s largest turkey producing state and moving as quickly as we can to ensure a response to the H5N2, avian influenza, virus is critical. This virus has the potential to seriously impact Minnesota’s turkey production and we took the right step today.” The Senate Finance Committee will hear the legislation today and chief author is Sen. Kevin Dahle.

 

NFU on TPA

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson called the introduction of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill this past week a one way ticket to bigger trade deficits, more lost jobs and more economic devastation to America’s family farmers and ranchers. “TPA is just the continuation of the same old thing, trade agreements that make huge promises of prosperity and jobs to the American public and deliver nothing but bigger deficits, exported jobs and lost domestic agricultural sales,” said Johnson, whose organization has long opposed TPA. TPA — also known as “Fast Track”— grants the administration the ability to negotiate trade deals and only allows Congress to have an up or down vote on the final package, regardless of how many objectionable provisions it contains. The bill was introduced today by Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, in the U.S. Senate, and a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representative was introduced by Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. TPA has drawn heavy criticism from both sides of the aisle because it forces Congress to all but remove itself from the trade negotiation process, a constitutional duty that many in Congress take very seriously. Johnson noted that the U.S. trade deficit for last year totaled over $500 billion and these agreements will only add to that number, which is a net drag on our economy by a full 3 percent. “We favor a trade policy that prioritizes domestic food production and goods supply chains in lieu of policies that put family farmers and ranchers out of business and send some of our best jobs, and the dreams of America’s middleclass, overseas,” he said.

 

MFU sponsors MN GROWN

 

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture announces the release of the 2015 Minnesota Grown Directory. The newest version is packed with a record breaking 1,027 member listings leading to local food and products from Minnesota producers. It includes farms, farmers markets, berry patches, wineries, locally raised plants, and more. The Directory remains organized by regions, so consumers can find what is available in their area quickly and easily. Specific products or farms are listed in either the product or alphabetical index located in the back. The Directory also includes five recipes and regionally inspired restaurant recommendations, featured by Minnesota Cooks. Minnesota Cooks is an education outreach program of Minnesota Farmers Union that celebrates Minnesota’s dedicated family farmers and talented, local food favoring, chefs and restaurant owners.  You can order free, printed copies of the Minnesota Grown Directory by calling Explore Minnesota Tourism at 1-888-TOURISM. You can also order your copy online or look up local farms at www.minnesotagrown.com. The online directory makes it easy to find farms via product, city, ZIP code, or the interactive map. Also both the House and Senate Agriculture Finance bills include full funding for MN Grown.

 

MFU Hosting Women’s Gatherings

 

Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) is hosting several community leadership meetings focusing on women’s leadership on several Saturdays through the spring of 2015. Women from all across Minnesota will get together with other women leaders in their communities to build connections and network with other to help strengthen their leadership and drive in their communities. Women have always been an integral part of the farm and these meetings will help to build on their strengths as well as help them meet other women who are as motivated as they are in their own communities. The meetings will be held on Saturday afternoons all around the state.  The schedule of the other meetings is as follows:

April 25, 2015                     1 p.m.— 3 p.m.                 Hinterland Vineyards,  Clara City, MN

May 2, 2015                        11 a.m.— 1 p.m.               Four Daughters Vineyard, Spring Valley, MN      

May 9, 2015                        11 a.m.— 1 p.m.               Black and White Café,  Little Falls, MN   

May 16, 2015                      11 am—1 pm                     Big Wood Center, Fergus Falls, MN

The full schedule can be found on our website as well at www.mfu.org.  If you would like to speak with anyone before, during or after the conference, contact MFU Public Affairs Director, Amanda Valencia at 651.288.4063.

 

That is all for now! As usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

 

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 4-13-15

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Monday April 13th, 2015

 

MFU meets with EPA’s McCarthy

 

On Wednesday, April 8, 2015, Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) leaders President Doug Peterson, Vice President Gary Wertish, and Legislative Director Thom Petersen, met with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to reinforce their support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and to provide clarity to the definitions of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS). MFU emphasized the need for continued investment and research into maintaining the first generation renewable fuels plus moving towards the second generation through investment and research for the purpose of national security, fuel independence, and rural jobs. MFU President Doug Peterson stated “Administrator McCarthy was open to working with farmers in providing clarity on exemptions and exclusions within agricultural waters as it pertains to WOTUS. McCarthy states there was clear support from the EPA for RFS, however the EPA needs stronger congressional intent and direction on biofuels for domestic use and national security” RFS drives much needed reinvestment in our rural communities when it operates reliably, but the inconsistency of management will jeopardize existing and future investments. There are opportunities being missed to reduce greenhouse emissions through RFS, which contributes to climate-related risks that are facing family farmers. There is a diversity of opinions on the proposed WOTUS rule among different Farmers Union organizations, but what we have in common is a genuine interested in making sure the EPA understands the concerns of family agriculture and the desire to protect and enhance our shared clean water resource. Minnesota Farmers Union leaders left the meeting with EPA Administrator McCarthy with the confidence that she is concerned about family farmers and protecting their future.

 

NFU hopeful on RFS timeline

 

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said this past Friday that he was hopeful the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) timeline for releasing Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) target levels would restore stability to an already damaged biofuels market and urged the EPA to stick to RFS statutory volume target levels when issuing the rule. “The timeline announced today by the EPA is encouraging because it provides the biofuels industry with some measure of the certainty it has lacked during the delays to setting the RFS target levels,” said Johnson. “NFU urges EPA to reinforce its support of clean energy, job creation and our nation’s energy independence by returning the volume obligations to their statutory levels.” The EPA announced today that it will release the long-anticipated 2014 - 2016 proposed volume targets for the RFS on June 1, 2015. Johnson noted that the EPA’s proposed target levels from November 2013 were unacceptable and that the volume standards are supposed to be a significant help in establishing the market for biofuels.

 

House Ag Finance bill released

 

This past week the House Agriculture Committee chaired by Rep. Rod Hamilton released its budget plan for the 2016-2017 biennium.  The bill includes several of MFU’s top priorities including increased funding for wolf depredation and dollars to add meat inspectors at state inspected plants.  The bill also includes funding for the new Ag Research, Education, Extension, Technology Transfer Board, advanced biofuel and biochemical incentives, and farm to food shelf, as well as maintaining base funding for popular MDA programs such as MN Grown and Dairy Development Teams. The bill does cut AURI about one million dollars per year, and fully funds the Board of Animal Health. The bill will be heard again Tuesday and amendments will be offered at that time. In general, MFU has concerns about changes to the AGRI fund and what impact those changes will have on programs such as livestock investment, value added and biofuel grants. Checkout good summary from Session Weekly here: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/sessiondaily/SDView.aspx?StoryID=5699

 

Hemp not included in House bill (for now!)

 

Language championed by Rep. Mary Franson and Rep. Phyllis Kahn that would allow MDA to undertake a pilot scale project for industrial hemp is not included in the House version of the budget bill for now. However it is likely to be offered as an amendment at some point. This past week, 13 more bipartisan House members signed onto Franson’s hemp bill. The Senate Ag & Environment Finance Committee also heard the hemp bill this week authored by Sen. Kent Eken and sent the bill to the Finance committee.  Meanwhile, Kentucky’s pilot project continues to grow with over 300 farmers requesting to join pilot project this year; good article here: Kentucky Hemp bill

 

Deal forged on Bioeconomy legislation

 

Biobased industry, agriculture, and environmental interests reached agreement this past week on legislation that would create production-based incentives for renewable chemicals, advanced biofuels and biomass thermal energy, and the groups are urging the Minnesota legislature to pass the legislation, as amended. “The agreement on this legislation is significant because it demonstrates that we can have rural economic development and clean air and clean water in Minnesota.  These are values broadly supported by Minnesotans from all walks of life and from all interest groups involved in this agreement,” said Great Plains Institute Vice President Brendan Jordan. After more than a year of active dialogue, the groups – the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota and the Minnesota Environmental Partnership – reached the agreement, which relates specifically to parts of the legislation dealing with advanced biofuels projects that utilize crop residues. The Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota is coordinated by the Great Plains Institute. The Institute and the Minnesota Environmental Partnership worked together to broker this agreement. The agreement includes requirements for ramping-up perennial biomass use over a specified time-period, adds detail and stringency to the development of “responsible sourcing planning”, and establishes a new program that would provide producers payment incentives to establish perennial crops. The new requirements only impact advanced biofuel projects that would use crop residues as a feedstock. Advanced biofuel projects from sugar, starch, or wood, and all renewable chemical and biomass thermal energy projects are not impacted by the new requirements. “This deal strikes a good balance. It works because everyone gets something they want. This clears the path for some early adopters to get started on their projects right away,” said Thom Petersen, Government Relations Director for the Minnesota Farmers Union.  “The bill will continue to position Minnesota as a leader in biobased technologies, including biofuels,” said Anna Boroff, Public Policy Director with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “This is an opportunity for corn farmers to have additional opportunities for their crop and for rural Minnesota to benefit from the economic development boost these projects will bring.”

 

Johnson Vets/Farm bill heard

 

This past week MFU testified in support of H.F. 545 before the House Higher Education Committee on legislation authored by Rep. Clark Johnson that requires the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) to establish a pilot program that encourages veterans to enter agricultural and food production-related career fields. $150,000 is appropriated to MnSCU in FY 2016, and $600,000 is appropriated in FY 2017 for this purpose. The pilot program is to be coordinated by the Southern Minnesota Center for excellence for agriculture at the North Mankato campus of South Central College, in collaboration with a number of additional entities with relevant expertise, as specified in paragraph (c) of the bill. In addition to South Central College, funds are appropriated to offer the program at up to six additional colleges in FY 2017, including one in the metro area and five in greater Minnesota. Enrollees in the pilot program would undergo an intensive four-to-eight week training involving academic study, employer-outreach and job development, and the development of career-building skills. Upon completion enrollees would earn a certificate of completion or other appropriate academic credit. The bill was held over for possible inclusion in omnibus Finance bill; Sen. Kathy Sheran is the Senate author.

 

School levy credit bill heard

 

H.F. 2077 authored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski was heard this past week in Property Tax Division of the Tax Committee. The bill would provide a property tax credit on all agricultural property equal to 50 percent of the tax on the property attributable to school districts debt levies. MFU is supporting this legislation and will continue to work on it.

 

ZIP Rail bill heard

 

The Property Tax division also heard and passed H.F. 920 and sent it to the Tax Committee. The legislation is also authored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski and would ban state and local governments from using public money for passenger rail service between the Twin Cities and Rochester. The bill also bans the use of eminent domain by state and local governments as well as a private railroad for the Zip Rail Project. MFU supports this legislation.

 

Buffer Update

 

This past week MFU staff and many members attended a buffer forum in Northfield with Governor Dayton in attendance. Governor Dayton also said in his state of the state address to the legislature that buffers and clean water remain a top priority for his administration this session and that he wants action soon. MFU continues to meet with key legislators on the issue as well as other stakeholders. MFU also really appreciates the amount of calls and emails we have received on this this issue, grass roots input is very helpful and we’ve gotten a lot of it! Again, even though deadlines have passed it is likely that buffer legislation will appear in some for later in the session.

 

2015 Nitrogen Management Plan Now Available

 

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has finalized the Minnesota Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan. The plan and factsheets are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/nfmp . The Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan is the state's blueprint for the prevention or minimization of the impacts of nitrogen fertilizer on groundwater. The MDA conducted an extensive process to develop the plan that included: 1) an advisory panel; 2) public notice for comments; 3) statewide listening sessions; and 4) numerous outreach events. As an outcome of this process, the MDA published a Response to Comments document. The final Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan incorporated the decisions that were addressed in the Response to Comments into the final plan.

 

H5N2 Avian Influenza

This past Friday MFU VP Gary Wertish participated in a conference call with Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith to discuss the status of H5N2 Avian Influenza and hear from stakeholders working to eradicate the disease. Minnesota Turkey farms continue to test positive for H5N2, you can see more information here from Board of Animal Health: https://www.bah.state.mn.us/avian-influenza

Spring Meetings

This coming week MFU has two more spring issue meetings; This Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at Peoples Energy Cooperative in Oronoco, and then Thursday at 1:00 p.m. at Waconia Brewing Company in Waconia. MFU had great meetings this past week in Little Falls and Isanti talking buffers, RFS and legislative issues. Be sure to attend if you are in the area and bring a friend!

 

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Gov’t Relations, MN Farmers Union


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday March 27th, 2015

Legislative Notes the MN Farmers Union Friday March 27, 2015

MFU President granted audience with Pope

Five Farmers Union state presidents, including Doug Peterson, with Minnesota Farmers Union and National Farmers Union’s (NFU) chief counsel, David Velde, also from Minnesota, were granted an audience with Pope Francis this week following a weeklong series of meetings with Vatican officials and rural-based non-governmental organizations. Discussions surrounded the important role family farmer’s play in food security and the fact that most of the food produced in the U.S. is produced by family farmers. Monsignor Peter Wells, assistant secretary of state for the Vatican, expressed concerns with the worldwide loss of family farmers, food security and environmental stewardship. “I’m pleased to hear the Vatican State Department’s belief that stewardship is ecumenical worldwide,” said Doug Peterson, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union. Dave Velde, National Farmers Union (NFU) chief counsel, noted that the discussions that took place in Rome transcended all national borders and religious beliefs. “All religions are concerned about stewardship and the environment,” he said.  “And this is a belief that can help unite a much divided world.” The delegation also spent time with Caldoritti, the largest farm organization in Italy, the International Catholic Rural Association and the secretary general of the World Farmers Organization. These meetings are leading up to an international symposium of faith, food and the environment that will take place in Milan, Italy, June 24 to 27.

New State Conservationist

On May 17, 2015, Cathee Pullman will commence serving as the New NRCS State Conservationist in Minnesota for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service replacing the now retired Don Baloun.  Cathee Pullman began her career with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Soil Conservation Service, now named the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), in 1987.  She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics and Ranch/Farm Management from Oklahoma State University in 1984. Pullman has three children attending college. She enjoys snow skiing, kayaking and traveling. 

Legislature on break

From Session Daily: The Legislature is on Passover/Easter break until Tuesday, April 7. Committees can resume meeting that morning and the House is scheduled to be in session at noon. The House is expected to return to a full agenda that week when committee hearings resume. The governor is scheduled to give his State of the State address on Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m. in the House chamber. Additionally, he is expected to release plans for funding capital projects that week. Two of the three deadlines have passed for committees to finish up their work and many policy committee chairs have announced they plan no further meetings this session. However, that leaves plenty of time for the finance committee to craft their omnibus bills with an April 24 deadline for completion of that work. Members must constitutionally finish their work by May 18.

Buffer Update

Talks continue at the Capitol about the Governor’s buffer initiative. The Senate bill authored by Sen. John Marty was not heard in the Senate Agriculture Committee, and technically did not make policy deadline. However, since this is a Governor’s initiative it is likely to show up at a later time in a different form. MFU continues to meet with various legislators, stakeholders and administration on the issue and welcomes member’s questions. Here is a link to an information sheet from the MAWRC: http://mawrc.org/downloads/Buffer%20%20FAQ.PDF

Ditch haying bill moving

S.F. 1852 authored by Sen. John Pederson was heard this week in the Senate Transportation Committee and later changed some and amended into S.F.1647 which is the omnibus Transportation bill. The language would now read that farmers could only mow and bale the first 15 feet of road ditch but would need a permit from MNDOT. In addition any other roadside could not be mowed until after August 1st. If haying occurs before then the legislation reads that law enforcement may issue a petty misdemeanor and issue a civil penalty equal to the value of the forage taken. MFU testified with concerns about this bill and encourages members who have concerns to talk to their legislators about this bill.

Hemp bill moving

H.F. 683 (industrial hemp pilot project) authored by Rep. Mary Franson with an assist from Rep. Joe Hoppe and Phyllis Kahn this week cleared two committees (State Government and Civil Law) and continues to move through the process. MFU strongly supports this legislation and here is a nice article about Kentucky who is moving forward with a pilot scale project which is what this bill is: Hemp article

Noxious weed bill heard

H.F. 1613 authored by Rep. Chris Swedzinski that appropriates $500,000 in fiscal year 2016 and $500,000 in fiscal year 2017 from the general fund to the noxious weed and invasive plant species assistance account to be used to implement the noxious weed grant program under Minnesota Statutes was heard this week in the House Agriculture Finance Committee and held over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill. MFU is represented by Todd County Farmers Union President Al Perish on the MN Noxious Weed Task Force and MFU is supportive of bill. Sen. Dan Sparks is the Senate author.

Butcher training bill heard

One of the more interesting bills of the week that was heard by the House Ag Committee was H.F. 1905 authored by Rep. Jason Metsa that would ask the MDA Commissioner to coordinate a pilot program operated by the Northeast Regional Corrections Center to train inmates for careers as butchers upon release. Metsa argued that the bill would also help farmers in NE Minnesota who have to travel along way to get their cattle processed. The bill was passed and will go to the Finance division. Sen. David Tomassoni is the Senate author.

Zip Line!

MFU testified in favor of an amended version on H.F. 920 authored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski this week before the House Transportation Committee that would say no public dollars or eminent domain could be used in building the proposed Zip Rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities. MFU policy opposes the Zip Rail. Read Rochester Post Bulletin coverage here:  Zip Line article

Advanced Biofuel bill moving

Both H.F. 536 and S.F. 517 authored by Rep. Rod Hamilton and Sen. Tom Saxhaug cleared important committees this week after a compromise between ag and environmental groups. The bill would among other things establish three production-based bioenergy grant programs administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). The language for the grant programs is similar to the Ethanol Producer Payment Program statute first enacted in 1986 and repealed in 2013. MFU strongly supports this bill and has been actively working on it. Read info on bill here: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?f=HF536&b=house&y=2015&ssn=0

Wolf meetings scheduled

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) will host a series of town hall meetings in northern Minnesota to explain state and federal programs focusing on livestock losses due to wolves, birds of prey, and weather.  The MDA offers a wolf depredation program that compensates farmers and ranchers for livestock losses due to wolves. Recently, the program funds were depleted because of an increase in claims. Governor Mark Dayton’s budget proposal seeks to double the funds available to producers. The FSA’s Livestock Indemnity Program, a new program funded through the 2014 Federal Farm Bill, compensates producers for livestock losses due to weather, wolves and avian predators. Presenters will explain, compare, and contrast the state and federal livestock loss programs. Attendees will be given information on the record-keeping expectations and claims processes for the two programs.

When and Where:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

-9:00 – 10:00 a.m., Roseau City Center, 121 Center Street E, Roseau, MN

-2:00 – 3:00 p.m, The Countryside Restaurant,  7209 Pete Lane NW, Bemidji, MN

Friday, April 3, 2015

-9:30 – 10:30 a.m., Grand Rapids Public Library, 140 NE 2nd Street, Grand Rapids, MN

-1:00 – 2:00 p.m., Aitkin Public Library, 110 1st Avenue NE, Aitkin, MN

Case of H5N2 confirmed in Minnesota

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial turkey flock in Lac Qui Parle County, Minnesota.  This is the second confirmation in a commercial flock in Minnesota.  The flock of 66,000 turkeys is located within the Mississippi flyway where this strain of avian influenza was previously identified. CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry, to be low.  No human infections with the virus have been detected at this time. Samples from the turkey flock, which experienced increased mortality, were tested at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa confirmed the findings. APHIS is working closely with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health on a joint incident response. State officials quarantined the affected premises and birds on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system. The Minnesota Department of Health is working directly with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure that they are taking the proper precautions. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses.

MFU District meetings & County Buffer meetings!

This next week is a busy meeting for MFU; The Steele County Farmers Union is hosting an informational meeting tomorrow Saturday March 28th at 1:00 at the Elks Club in Owatonna, and the Sibley County Farmers Union is also hosting a buffer meeting on Tuesday March 31st at 1:00 at the Prairie House in Gaylord. In addition, MFU has district meetings in Waseca, Redwood Falls and Glenwood. Finally the Swift County Farmers Union holds a general meeting on Tuesday. See full list at www.mfu.org/events .

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 2-27-15

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday February 27, 2015

MFU passes special order on buffers

This past Saturday at the MFU full Board meeting (made up of our County Presidents) attendees unanimously passed a Special Order of Business regarding buffers. MFU is strongly supportive of buffers, but our members clearly feel the need of buffer strips greatly varies throughout the state one size doesn’t fit all, and furthermore there are a lot of questions in the countryside about this issue. MFU sincerely appreciates the time state agencies have spent so far reaching out to our members and MFU remains committed to working with legislators and state agencies to come up with a program that address’s water quality and still is a common sense approach run by local officials and works for farmers. Here is the Special Order:

Whereas Governor Mark Dayton has proposed a 50 foot buffer on all public waterways, and

Whereas, Minnesota Farmers Union recognizes and supports the important and positive impact buffers can have on water quality, habitat, and soil loss, and

Whereas, the Minnesota Farmers Union Full Board of Directors (Made up of all County Presidents) feels this is an important issue that will involve many important decisions for farmers, local government and state officials and needs to be done with proper time and input, and

Now Therefore Be it Resolved that the Minnesota Farmers Union Full Board of Directors supports state agencies work to clarify regarding buffers; the existing law, what programs are available as financial incentives, current enforcement activities, current inventory of buffers, and opportunities for haying and grazing, and

Furthermore, the Minnesota Farmers Union Full Board of Directors supports the Legislature directing the Board of Water and Soil Resources Drainage Working Group be charged to study the buffer issue including current law need, funding options and use of buffers on public waters and report back to the 2016 Legislature.

Passed Unanimously at MFU Full Board Meeting Saturday Feb. 21st, 2015

MFU Board re-elected

Also at the MFU Full Board meeting last week County Presidents re-elected Bessie Klose from Kandiyohi County to serve another term as State Secretary and Larry Jacobsen, Clay County, Eunice Biel, Fillmore County, Markell Vogt, Aitkin County, Dave Johnson, West OtterTail County and Merlyn Hubin, Cottonwood County to serve another term on the MFU Executive Committee. Congrats to them!

Chair Anderson Column on buffers

Rep. Paul Anderson Chair of the House Agriculture Policy also recently wrote this column regarding buffers, I encourage members to read: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/members/pressrelease.asp?pressid=8375&party=2&memid=15301

USDA Provides one time extension for ARC/PLC

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that a one-time extension will be provided to producers for the new safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres has been extended one additional month, from Feb. 27, 2015 until March 31, 2015. The final day for farm owners and producers to choose ARC or PLC coverage also remains March 31, 2015. If no changes are made to yield history or base acres by March 31, 2015, the farm's current yield and base will be used. A program choice of ARC or PLC coverage also must be made by March 31, 2015, or there will be no 2014 payments for the farm and the farm will default to PLC coverage through the 2018 crop year. To learn more, farmers can contact their local Farm Service Agency county office. To find your local office visit http://offices.usda.gov .

USDA Organic leader visits Minnesota

This past week Betsy Rakola, Organic Policy Advisor to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Minnesota and held a roundtable discussion in which MFU participated to talk about outreach to organic farmers from the USDA in Minnesota. Good discussion on helping farmers who are interested in organic transition find the information and help they need, good information here: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=organic-agriculture.html

Organic Cost Share

Minnesota farmers can apply for Organic Transition Cost Share funding again in 2015. This program refunds a portion of the cost of working with an organic certifying agency, and the refund can span some or all of the 36 months a transition typically takes. The program reimburses 75 percent of the cost to hire a certifier during transition and requires an on-farm mock inspection. Applicants may also include the cost of soil testing and attending an approved organic conference in Minnesota or a neighboring state. Payments are capped at $750 per year, and only farmers who are new to organic may apply. For costs paid during calendar year 2015, applications must be postmarked no later than February 14, 2016.Organic Transition Cost Share Program application forms, a set of Frequently Asked Questions, and a list of approved certifying agencies that offer transition verification are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic or by calling 651-201-6012.

NFU on corn ethanol legislation

NFU President Roger Johnson said that the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act would cripple rural America’s economy and be an enormous step backwards for America’s goal of energy independence by a decade or more.  “The elimination of corn-based ethanol as an option to fulfill the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will reverse the enormous economic prosperity we’ve seen in rural America since the passage of the RFS and will severely hamstring this nation’s goal of energy independence,” said Johnson. Johnson pointed out that corn-based ethanol has been used to fulfill the lion’s share of the RFS because it is among the most efficient renewable transportation fuels to produce. It has not only helped reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil but also generates a very valuable by-product – Dried Distiller’s Grains – that has proven invaluable as animal feed.  Some of the nation’s largest food companies and meat processors have argued that the rise in corn prices since passage of the RFS has forced them to raise food prices for consumers. “Corn prices rose sharply in 2012 due to the worst drought the nation has seen since the Dust Bowl days and high energy prices,” said Johnson. “Since then, corn prices have dropped precipitously yet food prices have remained elevated and so have the profit margins of those companies,” he said.

Hunt passes

Former NRCS State Conservationist Bill Hunt passed away February 22nd. While serving with NRCS Hunt worked with many MFU members and attended many MFU events, and was always engaging and willing to work with our organization. Condolences to his family.

Landwehr/Tuma recommended for confirmation

This week the Senate Environment and Energy Policy Committee unanimously recommended confirmation by the full Senate for DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and also recommended confirmation for former state Rep. John Tuma from Northfield to the Public Utilities Commission.

 Budget surplus jumps

From Session Daily: The state can look forward to an expected nearly $1.87 billion surplus in the next biennium, Minnesota Management & Budget announced Friday. The February Budget and Economic Forecast show an increase of $832 million over the surplus. The twice-annual forecast from MMB provides a snapshot of the state’s economy and predicts if the state should have a projected surplus or budget deficit. MMB bases its projections on economic growth estimates, along with tax and spending patterns. Minnesota will take in more money and spend less than previously expected the new projections show:

  • Revenues for Fiscal Year 2016-17 are projected to be $42.5 billion — a $616 million, or 1.5 percent, increase over November’s estimates.
  • Current law spending of $41.13 billion is $115 million (0.3 percent) less than previously projected.
  • Revenue and spending changes combine to add $107 million to the state’s beginning balance for fiscal year 2016-17.

The economic outlook for the country as a whole, which appeared weakened in November, now looks strong, especially in the near term. Gross domestic product, expected to rise in 2015 by 2.6 percent last November, now appears on track for 3 percent growth this year, state officials said, citing IHS Economics, MMB’s macroeconomic research consultant. Growth in 2016 and 2018 now is looking slightly slower than appeared in November (2.7 and 2.8 percent, respectively).

Industrial Hemp clears another hurdle

Legislation authored by Rep. Mary Franson to create a pilot project for industrial hemp production in Minnesota cleared another hurdle this week in the House this time by passing the Agriculture Policy Committee and was sent to the Government Operation Committee. In the Senate the bill authored by Sen. Kent Eken will be heard in the Judiciary Committee.  MFU testified in favor of the bill.

Hamilton Education bill clears House Committee

HF 779 authored by Rep. Rod Hamilton that establishes an Agriculture Research, Education, Extension, and Technology Transfer Board to award general fund grants that most efficiently achieve long-term agricultural productivity increases through improved infrastructure, vision, and accountability passed the House Agriculture Policy Committee this week and was also sent to the Government Operations Committee. The board would be comprised of agricultural and forest-product interests, the University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.  The board would issue approximately $18.7 million in grants each year, with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture allowed to use a portion of the appropriation each year for the agency’s direct costs to act as fiscal agent and to provide administrative services to the board. A portion of grant funding each year would be dedicated to agricultural education and rapid response to plant and animal diseases and pests. MFU supports this legislation; Sen. Dan Sparks is the Senate author.

Farm Business Management

Legislation authored by Rep. Deb Kiel that would appropriate $4.8 million for the 2016-2017 biennium from the general fund to the Commissioner of Agriculture for grants to the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council for farm mentoring and farm business management programs was heard in the House Agriculture Finance Committee and held over for possible inclusion in an omnibus finance bill. MFU testified in support of this very important piece of legislation.

Wolf Depredation

The House Agriculture Finance Committee also heard two bills, one authored by Rep. John Persell and one by Rep. Dan Fabian that would appropriate dollars to fund the wolf and elk depredation fund at the Department of Agriculture to cover livestock and crop losses. The bills were also held over for possible inclusion in an omnibus finance bill. MFU testified in support of depredation funding and will continue working with the authors and department.

Governor Dayton Budget

MFU also testified this week before the Senate Environment and Agriculture Finance Committee on portions of Governor Dayton’s budget proposal that deal with agriculture. MFU has been pleased that the budget proposal includes two of MFU’s priorities; more dollars for meat inspection and wolf depredation.  MFU has concerns about fee increases on dairy, feed, seed and anhydrous inspection. Most of these increases are very small and are working to help fund increased inspections. Members who have questions about any of these should feel free to contact me.

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union


Advocacy


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 2-5-15

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Thursday February 5, 2015

 

Lobby Day Tuesday

 

Tuesday Feb. 3rd will be the second of three MFU lobby days at the Capitol in St. Paul this year. Members from East Central and West Central Minnesota will visit with area legislators and attend committee hearings. If you are interested in attending contact the MFU office. The day runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. See www.mfu.org for more information on other days as well.  This past week, MFU had a great turnout of members from Southeast Minnesota! Checkout MFU’s Facebook page for pictures from the day: https://www.facebook.com/mnfarmersunion

 

Agritourism bill passes Ag Committees

 

Both HF 216 and SF 152 authored by Rep. Paul Anderson and Sen. Matt Schmit known as the Agritourism legislation which provides some basic liability relief to farmers who invite the public onto their farms for various reasons passed through the Agriculture Policy Committees in the House and Senate this week. MFU offered testimony in support of this legislation as MFU has seen an increase in people visiting farms whether it is a U-Pick, CSA, or part of a crop-test plot day. MFU members Sharon and Bruce Johnson, owners of Minnesota Fresh Farm also did a tremendous job testifying in support of the legislation. The bills now go the Civil Law and Judiciary Committees.

 

Family Farm Protection Act

 

Today MFU President spoke at a press conference with Rep. Steve Drazkowski and Sen. Lyle Koenen to announce legislation known as the Family Farm Protection Act that would align school capital improvement levies with how operating levies are taxed regarding farms. According to the legislation, farmers would only be taxed on their house, garage and one acre for capital improvement levies similar to operating levies for levies going forward. MFU policy has long supported this policy.

 

Net Metering

 

MFU submitted written testimony this week to the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee chaired by Rep. Pat Garofalo on net metering. The committee held an informational hearing on the issue.  Minnesota Farmers Union policy strongly supports the current net metering law in Minnesota. MFU policy further supports working to increase the capacity to 100 KW and explore other equitable methods of funding net metering. Minnesota Farmers Union believes that the current law helps to create clean, alternative sources of renewable energy that is good for the local and state economy. MFU expects legislation this year to make some changes to the current law and MFU will be visiting with members when we see legislation.

 

Pre-Labor Day School Start date

 

This past week the House Education Policy heard bills authored by Rep. Ron Kresha and Rep. Kim Norton that would allow schools to start their school year before Labor Day this year (later this year Sept. 7th). MFU policy opposes this legislation and MFU submitted a letter to the committee stating that opposition. No action was taken at this hearing. Also testifying against were the Minnesota State Fair and representatives of Minnesota resorts. Sen. Lyle Koenen is the author in the

Senate, and the bill will be heard next week.

 

Buffer Update

 

MFU continues to await more information on Governor Dayton’s 50 foot buffer initiative. Tomorrow, MFU will hold a conference call with county MFU leaders to discuss the issue, and will be joined by Assistant MDA Commissioner Matt Wohlman who has been working on the issue. MFU members have raised many questions about what, where, when and how much, and will continue to work on the issue. More details should be forthcoming this next week from state agencies.

 

MFU participates in Hunger Day at Capitol

 

This past week MFU President and staff participated in Hunger Day at the Capitol. MFU strongly supports the agenda of the Partners to End Hunger Coalition which includes funding to increase SNAP use at Farmers Markets, help mobile food shelves, expand school breakfast, and renew farm to food shelf funding.

 

NFU on Obama budget

 

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson this week commended President Obama’s 2015 Budget Proposal, noting its crucial investments for family farmers, ranchers, and rural America. “The president has demonstrated meaningful support for the men and women who grow this nation’s food, feed, fiber and fuel, and the challenges they face daily,” said Johnson. “The dramatic changes fueled by climate change are clearly one of the major hurdles facing America’s producers,” noted Johnson. “Family farmers and ranchers across the U.S. are already feeling the impact of increasing weather volatility, resulting in fewer workable field days, increased potential for soil erosion, and increased crop insurance claims. Investments in clean energy and climate resilience, like the permanent extension of the renewable electricity production and investment tax credits, will create new opportunities for American businesses while mitigating our producers’ climate risk.”  Johnson also noted that for generations, farming and ranching income has lagged behind the overall prosperity of the nation, and that the budget outlines opportunities to reduce this disparity. Johnson said that he was disappointed the Administration has proposed across the board cuts to crop insurance, a farmer’s primary risk management tool.

 

NFU on RFS Reform Act

 

NFU released the following statement yesterday following the introduction of a bill that would

eliminate the corn-based ethanol mandate for biofuel production and restrict overall volume targets. The following statement should be attributed to Roger Johnson, president, National Farmers Union. “The elimination of the corn-based ethanol mandate and blend cap will gut the nation’s biofuel production, strand existing investment in second generation biofuel production and hurt family farmers, ranchers and rural communities that have experienced much-needed reinvestment from this policy. This is not only a bad step for agriculture, but also is a major setback to the environment and our nation’s attempts to manage its carbon emissions. We urge Congress to reject this policy and continue to embrace the vision of a robust renewable fuels industry as a component of this nation’s overall energy portfolio.”

 

Food Safety Defense Task Force opening

 

The Food Safety and Defense Task Force has an opening for an at-large member. Appointment is made by Governor Dayton. The Food Safety and Defense Task Force is established to advise the Commissioner of Agriculture and the legislature on food issues and food safety, more information here: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/news/government/foodsafetytf.aspx

 

Carlton County Farmers Union to hold wolf meeting

 

The Carlton County Farmers Union will hold a county meeting Friday Feb. 13th at 10:00 a.m. at Gampers near Moose Lake to hear updates on current situation with wolves resulting from the lawsuit by HSUS. Representatives from the DNR and MDA will be on hand as will be representatives of Minnesota Congressional offices. Members and interested parties from surrounding counties have been invited as well. Chisago-Isanti, Crow Wing, Kandiyohi and Dakota County Farmers Union chapters are holding events as well, check here for more info: http://www.mfu.org/pages/Events/

 

That’s all for now, questions, comments and complaints to me! Below is lots of interesting bill introductions to look at if you are interested! You can copy into browser for more info if links don’t work.

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union

 

H. F. 348, <http://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/getbill.php?number=HF0348&version=latest&session=89&session_number=0&session_year=2015> - Persell, Metsa and Melin introduced:

  • A bill for an act relating to agriculture; appropriating money for wolf depredation payments.

H. F. 414, <http://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/getbill.php?number=HF0414&version=latest&session=89&session_number=0&session_year=2015> - Hansen and Gunther introduced:

  • appropriating money for the conservation reserve enhancement program

H. F. 475, <http://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/getbill.php?number=HF0475&version=latest&session=89&session_number=0&session_year=2015> - Quam; Anderson, P.; Hancock; Drazkowski and Hertaus introduced:

  • A bill for an act relating to education; allowing sponsored agriculture education community experts;

H. F. 493, <http://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/getbill.php?number=HF0493&version=latest&session=89&session_number=0&session_year=2015> - McDonald; Pugh; Miller; Lohmer; Drazkowski; Anderson, M.; Loonan; Garofalo; Davids and Hertaus introduced:

  • repealing the estate tax

H. F. 508, <http://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/getbill.php?number=HF0508&version=latest&session=89&session_number=0&session_year=2015> - Bly; Sundin; Anzelc; Clark; Johnson, C.; Hornstein and Hansen introduced:

  • providing owners of certain types of land the option to require a pipeline proposing to locate on that land to purchase any amount of the owner's contiguous land;

H. F. 514, <http://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/getbill.php?number=HF0514&version=latest&session=89&session_number=0&session_year=2015> - Fabian, Lueck, Rarick, Hancock and Johnson, B. introduced:

  • Appropriating money for wolf and elk depredation payments.

H. F. 545, <http://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/getbill.php?number=HF0545&version=latest&session=89&session_number=0&session_year=2015> - Johnson, C.; Poppe; Persell; Newton; Murphy, M.; Considine; Metsa; Pelowski; Marquart; Hansen; Bly and Clark introduced:

  • higher education - establishing a veterans-to-agriculture pilot program

H. F. 593, <http://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/getbill.php?number=HF0593&version=latest&session=89&session_number=0&session_year=2015>

  • Appropriating money for the broadband development grant program.

H. F. 655, <http://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/getbill.php?number=HF0655&version=latest&session=89&session_number=0&session_year=2015> - Fabian, Baker, Scott and Pelowski introduced:

  • amending compensation options for certain net metering facilities

S.F. No. 482 <http://www.senate.mn/bin/unoff_eng.php?version=latest&session=ls89&session_number=0&session_year=2015&number=SF482> : - Senators Sparks, Dahms and Weber introduced—

  • an act relating to real property; modifying nuisance liability of agricultural operations

S.F. No. 517 <http://www.senate.mn/bin/unoff_eng.php?version=latest&session=ls89&session_number=0&session_year=2015&number=SF517> : - Senators Saxhaug, Tomassoni, Rosen and Weber introduced—

  • creating an advanced biofuel production incentive program; establishing a renewable chemical production incentive program; establishing a biomass production incentive program;

S.F. No. 579 <http://www.senate.mn/bin/unoff_eng.php?version=latest&session=ls89&session_number=0&session_year=2015&number=SF579> : - Senators Dahle, Scalze, Hoffman and Tomassoni introduced—

  • appropriating money for Forever Green Agriculture Initiative at the University of MN

S.F. No. 612 <http://www.senate.mn/bin/unoff_eng.php?version=latest&session=ls89&session_number=0&session_year=2015&number=SF612> : - Senators Eaton, Dibble and Wiger introduced--

  • A bill for an act relating to natural resources; reinstating the five-year moratorium on wolf hunting

H. F. 348, <http://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/getbill.php?number=HF0348&version=latest&session=89&session_number=0&session_year=2015> - Persell, Metsa and Melin introduced:

A bill for an act relating to agriculture; appropriating money for wolf depredation payments.

H. F. 352, <http://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/getbill.php?number=HF0352&version=latest&session=89&session_number=0&session_year=2015> - Anderson, S.; Hamilton; Norton; Halverson; Dettmer; Pierson; Allen; Hornstein; Freiberg; Newton; Kresha; Youakim; Anderson, P.; Applebaum; Selcer and Schoen introduced:
establishing the healthy eating, here at home program; grants to those who work with farmers markets and food education outreach

S.F. No. 9 <http://www.senate.mn/bin/unoff_eng.php?version=latest&session=ls89&session_number=0&session_year=2015&number=SF9> : - Senator Skoe introduced--

making changes to agricultural homestead determinations

S.F. No. 132 <http://www.senate.mn/bin/unoff_eng.php?version=latest&session=ls89&session_number=0&session_year=2015&number=SF132> :

an act relating to agriculture; exempting certain organizations from the Minnesota seed law

S.F. No. 152 <http://www.senate.mn/bin/unoff_eng.php?version=latest&session=ls89&session_number=0&session_year=2015&number=SF152> - Senators Schmit and Dahms introduced

providing immunity from liability for certain agritourism activities

S.F. No. 257 <http://www.senate.mn/bin/unoff_eng.php?version=latest&session=ls89&session_number=0&session_year=2015&number=SF257> : - Senator Skoe introduced--

repealing exemption for agricultural containment facilities

S.F. No. 289 <http://www.senate.mn/bin/unoff_eng.php?version=latest&session=ls89&session_number=0&session_year=2015&number=SF289> :

exempting propane tanks from a tax

S.F. No. 335 <http://www.senate.mn/bin/unoff_eng.php?version=latest&session=ls89&session_number=0&session_year=2015&number=SF335> : - Senators Marty and Hawj introduced--

A bill for an act relating to commerce; providing consumer protection; requiring disclosure of genetically engineered food


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 2-12-15

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Thursday February 12, 2015

 

Lobby Day Tuesday

 

Tuesday Feb. 17th will be the third of three MFU lobby days at the Capitol in St. Paul this year. Members from SouthWest and NorthWest Minnesota will visit with area legislators and attend committee hearings. If you are interested in attending contact the MFU office. The day runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. See www.mfu.org for more information on other days as well. 

 

COOL Lawsuit dismissed

 

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson praised this weeks’ dismissal of the U.S. District Court lawsuit on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), filed by the multinational meatpacking industry and their allies to try and stop the USDA from implementing the very popular labeling law. “This is a clear and indisputable win for American consumers and producers, and it’s a huge relief to know that common-sense labeling laws, like COOL, can prevail in court despite the deep pockets of the multinationals,” said Johnson.  The papers ending the long and costly lawsuit were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ending American Meat Institute (AMI) et al. v. U.S. Department of Agriculture et al., originally filed in July, 2013.  Last week a Canadian delegation comprised of the Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz and members of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the Canadian Pork Council and the Canadian Meat Council made a lobbying trip to Capitol Hill on the heels of the release of a new study conducted by Auburn University Professor Robert Taylor showing that allegations that COOL depressed prices of Canadian cattle were false.   Johnson urged members of Congress to stand by the popular labeling law – supported by roughly 90 percent of consumers – and urged the Canadians to allow the World Trade Organization to consider the new study and the total body of information and arrive at a decision on its own.

 

Buffers

 

This past week MFU President attended a meeting with other farm organizations and state agencies to discuss and get updates on Governor Dayton’s buffer proposal. While not a lot of new details were put forward, agencies made it clear that this is a water quality initiative and local governments would be doing enforcement.  Issues discussed were modeling, is 50 feet the right amount, what programs are available for farmers and other issues. Agencies took feedback and will continue to work on proposal. MFU will continue to work with agencies and lawmakers on this proposal and invites members to continue to comment. In general MFU members have been supportive of buffers but many are concerned about the need to do 50 feet everywhere.

 

Governor budget

 

Today MFU testified before the House Agriculture Committee chaired by Rep. Paul Anderson on MFU’s reaction to agricultural provisions of Governor Dayton’s budget. MFU praised the inclusion of more dollars for meat inspection and wolf depredation, and raised concerns about three fee increases; dairy inspection, feed inspection and anhydrous tank inspection. MFU will continue to visit with members about these fee increases and the need for them.

 

Considine introduces Cuba legislation

 

Today, Representative Jack Considine (DFL-Mankato) will introduce legislation to direct the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to prepare for possible agricultural goods to be sold to Cuba.  “The Mankato area is home to some of the best farmers in the world. If the federal government opens up trade with Cuba, I want Minnesota to be ready with some of the best agricultural products in the world.”  The bill directs the MDA to take the necessary steps to be ready to begin selling commodities to Cuba.   “This is common-sense legislation,” said Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson. “Opening trade with Cuba instantly creates demand for agricultural products; Minnesota being ready to trade means more money for Minnesota farmers.”  The bill is expected to be referred to the committee on Agriculture Policy.

 

Water Commission

 

MFU President Doug Peterson testified this past week of MFU’s water issues before the Legislative Water Commission which this week was chaired by Rep. Paul Torkelson. President Peterson talked about how MFU is involved in as many as 8 different water-related committees, which is about 8 more than when he became President of MFU 12 plus years ago, everything from the Clean Water Council to the MN Ag Water Quality Resource Center. Peterson also commented on irrigation, buffers, and wetland issues.

 

Industrial Hemp bill to get hearing

 

Legislation authored by Sen. Kent Eken and long supported by MFU that would take the first step in having industrial hemp grown in Minnesota will get a hearing next Wednesday in the Senate Jobs and Ag Policy Committee Chaired by Sen. Dan Sparks. This past week the House Ag Policy Committee heard and update from MDA on the industrial hemp report ordered by the legislature last year. Rep. May Franson is the House author and you can see MDA report at this page: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/news/government.aspx

 

DNR Roadsides for habitat

 

This past week MFU attended a meeting of the DNR Roadsides for Habitat Group to look at roadside issues, mostly the mowing and baling of ditch hay. Current law basically says you can’t mow until August 1st and the group is looking at legislation to update roadside statutes including what the fine is for mowing before August 1st. The group is also looking at changes for mowing near WMA’s. Members who have questions or thoughts about this issue should contact me.

 

DNR Land Ownership

 

From Session Weekly: State ownership of land has been an ongoing concern in certain parts of Minnesota for years, with some residents worried that continued acquisitions have little regard for local impact and show no signs of slowing anytime soon. The House Legacy Funding Finance Committee held an informational hearing on the issue Monday, to learn more about the acquisition process used by the Department of Natural Resources while voicing some concerns. Bob Meier, DNR assistant commissioner, said he often hears people say the ‘DNR owns all the land in the state of Minnesota’ or ask ‘How much land is enough?’ Meier said. Of the nearly 6 million acres of state land the DNR manages, Meier said only about one quarter of that – 1.5 million acres – was “acquired land” that had been purchased by the DNR. The rest comes from a variety of sources including 2.5 million acres of school trust land, which is the state’s largest single land holding. View full article here: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/SessionDaily/SDView.aspx?StoryID=5432

 

Klobuchar invites farmers to attend Cuba summit

 

On Monday, February 23rd, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar will host the Modernizing U.S.-Cuba Relations Summit. This forum will highlight the historic opportunity for our country to modernize our relationship with Cuba. The event will be free and open to the public. Klobuchar will be joined by keynote speaker Michael Scuse, the USDA Undersecretary for Farms and Foreign Agriculture Services. There will also be a panel discussion with voices representing Minnesota’s agriculture, business, and Latino communities. Senator Klobuchar has been a strong proponent of normalizing ties with Cuba and increasing travel and commerce that could create new economic opportunities for Minnesota farmers and businesses while improving the quality of life for Cubans. The event is from 9:30-11:00 a.m. at the University Of Minnesota College Of Continuing Education. Please RSVP to this event by emailing Clara_Haycraft@Klobuchar.senate.gov. For more information, please contact Ben Hill at 612-727-5224.

 

MFU & MFB ask for action on wolves

 

This week the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) and the Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) joined together to ask the Minnesota Members of Congress to cosponsor legislation to reissue the December 2011 U.S. Department of Interior rule that would delist the Western Great Lakes Gray Wolves population in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and turn the management of the wolf back to state control. MFBF and MFU encouraged members of the U.S. House of Representatives to sign onto Representative Ribble’s bill alongside Congressmen Peterson, Emmer and Walz. They asked Senators Klobuchar and Franken that action be taken in the Senate to establish legislation similar to that in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Under state management the gray wolf population has far exceeded state and federal recovery goals. Even so, on December 19, 2014, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell immediately reinstated Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. This decision leaves farmers, ranchers and pet owners helpless in protecting their animals against wolf attacks. MFBF and MFU have been hearing devastating stories from members about the inability to protect livestock from these vicious attacks. In order to meet delisting criteria set by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the gray wolf population needed to be between 1,251 and 1,400. Once turned over to state management, Minnesota set a minimum population of 1,600 wolves. The state’s current wolf population is now more than 2,400, which far exceeds state and federal recovery goals. The State of Minnesota has done and will continue to do a good job of monitoring the population to allow for a healthy population while also giving pet and livestock owners options to protect their animals. MFBF and MFU are asking for management of the wolf population to be back under the control of the state not the ESA.

 

Carlton County Farmers Union to hold wolf meeting

 

The Carlton County Farmers Union will hold a county meeting Friday Feb. 13th at 10:00 a.m. at Gampers near Moose Lake to hear updates on current situation with wolves resulting from the lawsuit by HSUS. Representatives from the DNR and MDA will be on hand as will be representatives of Minnesota Congressional offices. Members and interested parties from surrounding counties have been invited as well. Crow Wing and Kandiyohi County Farmers Union chapters are holding events as well, check here for more info: http://www.mfu.org/pages/Events/

 

That’s all for now, questions, comments and complaints to me! Below is lots of interesting bill introductions to look at if you are interested! You can copy into browser for more info if links don’t work.

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union

 

H. F. 693, - Bly; Johnson, C.; Hamilton; Yarusso and Applebaum introduced:

  • appropriating money for the Forever Green Agriculture Initiative at UMN

H. F. 696, - Bly introduced

  • requiring the commissioner of agriculture to facilitate creation of an organic agriculture production and demonstration zone; providing a property tax credit for property within the zone

H. F. 697, - Bly introduced:

  • establishing a Minnesota Food Council; providing appointments; requiring reports
  •  

H. F. 698, - Pierson, Davids, Quam, Dettmer, Dill, Zerwas and Albright introduced:

  • prohibiting money from parks and trails fund to acquire property by eminent domain

 

S.F. No. 618 - Senators Eken; Petersen, B. ; Koenen; Weber and Sparks introduced—

  • providing for the development and regulation of an industrial hemp industry; providing defense for possession of industrial hemp; modifying the definitions of marijuana and wild hemp;

S.F. No. 635: - Senators Scalze, Ruud, Hoffman, Eken and Sparks introduced—

  • appropriating money for the conservation reserve enhancement program;

S.F. No. 653: - Senators Sheran, Eken, Clausen, Rosen and Weber introduced—

  • establishing a veterans-to-agriculture pilot program

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 3-6-15

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday March 6th, 2015

 

MFU President testifies on Veterans bill

 

Monday of this week MFU President Doug Peterson testified before the House Veterans Committee in support of H.F. 545 authored by Rep. Clark Johnson that requires the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) to establish a pilot program that encourages veterans to enter agricultural and food production-related career fields. $150,000 is appropriated to MnSCU in FY 2016, and $600,000 is appropriated in FY 2017 for this purpose. The pilot program is to be coordinated by the Southern Minnesota Center for excellence for agriculture at the North Mankato campus of South Central College, in collaboration with a number of additional entities with relevant expertise, as specified in paragraph (c) of the bill. In addition to South Central College, funds are appropriated to offer the program at up to six additional colleges in FY 2017, including one in the metro area and five in greater Minnesota. Enrollees in the pilot program would undergo an intensive four-to-eight week training involving academic study, employer-outreach and job development, and the development of career-building skills. Upon completion enrollees would earn a certificate of completion or other appropriate academic credit. The bill passed and was sent to the Higher Education Committee; Sen. Kathy Sheran is the Senate author.

 

MFU launches new Veterans Program

 

MFU has introduced a new program dedicated to the veterans of the armed services living and working in Minnesota. “Our nation has a long history of support of the education and retraining of our veterans,” stated Minnesota Farmers Union President, Doug Peterson, “it is within that spirit of supporting veterans, that Minnesota Farmers Union is launching “MN Vets”, aimed at connecting veterans to farmers and farming.” This new program will focus on:

  • Education on farming practices and techniques to help veterans learn or build on their farming skills.
  • Building relationships within the farming organization to build strong networks.
  • Connections with and directions to organizations to get funding for land and information on available land.
  • Having the information to find grants, land, loans and programs through various partnerships with state and county organizations that are focused on assisting veterans;

 

These are just some of the highlights of the new MFU program that is being launched. We look forward to helping those who have done their part to help us. Members who have questions can call MFU at 651-639-1223.

 

Buffer Update

 

This next week members will be able to get a look at legislation concerning Governor Dayton’s buffer proposal. Rep. Paul Torkelson will carry the bill in the House and will present it to the House Environment Committee Tuesday morning. MFU will be consulting policy, the recently passed special order and members after seeing the bill.

 

Buffer Strip Summit Will be held in Mazeppa

 

 

MFU members are invited to attend a buffer summit Friday March 13th in Mazeppa at the Community Center hosted by S.O.M. Generators, a soil health group.  Buffer strips have been part of Minnesota drainage laws since 1959. Because these rules have not been uniformly enforced, this last January Governor Dayton asked the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to strengthen and take over enforcement of the law to provide consistent enforcement throughout our state.  Changes to the law are being proposed, with penalties from enforcement being looked at to fund the program.   The day-long event will conclude with an open forum on the buffer strip initiative at 7 p.m.  The forum will be chaired by Representative Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa.  Panel members will consist of state regulatory personnel, as well as several area Legislators. Other sessions include:  a 1 p.m. photographic presentation featuring the local landscape of the Zumbro Watershed, a 2 p.m. presentation on regenerative agriculture management methods, and a 3 p.m. presentation on the history of the Zumbro River.  Refreshments will be served during the day.  The community center is located on the Main Street of Mazeppa.

 

Soil and Water bills heard

 

MFU testified in support of a trio of bills heard this week before the Senate Environment Committee that would boost funding to Minnesota Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The bills which addressed taxing authority for SWCD’s and direct appropriations were authored by Sens. Skoe, Lourey, and Sparks. The Lourey and Sparks bill were moved forward and MFU will continue to work on these bills to improve funding. Members who have questions should feel free to contact me.

 

Farmer-Lender Mediation

 

The House Agriculture Policy Committee heard H.F. 1235 authored by Rep. Paul Anderson that would extend the Farmer-Lender Mediation program until 2021 but would raise the qualifying threshold from $5,000 to $75,000. MFU testified against the latter provision. The University of Minnesota Extension which runs the program provided information that showed hundreds of cases would be negatively affected by this bill. The bill was laid on the table. Sen Dan Sparks is the Senate author.

 

Ag Research/ Education bill

 

The House and Senate Ag Committees also this week heard H.F. 779/ S.F. 820 authored by Rep. Rod Hamilton and Sen. Dan Sparks that establishes an Agriculture Research, Education, Extension, and Technology Transfer Board to award general fund grants that most efficiently achieve long-term agricultural productivity increases through improved infrastructure, vision, and accountability. The board would be comprised of agricultural and forest-product interests, the University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The board would issue approximately $18.7 million in grants each year, with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture allowed to use a portion of the appropriation each year for the agency’s direct costs to act as fiscal agent and to provide administrative services to the board. A portion of grant funding each year would be dedicated to agricultural education and rapid response to plant and animal diseases and pests. MFU supports this legislation.

 

Beginning Farmers Legislation

 

MFU also testified in support of S.F. 933/H.F. 812 authored by Rep. David Bly and Sen. Lyle Koenen before Ag Committees that would expand on the Rural Finance Authority’s (RFA) beginning farmer program. It authorizes credits against state individual income and/or corporate franchise tax for persons who sell or rent farm assets to qualified beginning farmers, and qualified beginning farmers who take an approved financial management course. There were a lot of interest in these bills and MFU will continue to work on them as they move through the process.  Rep. Paul Marquart also presented similar legislation to the committee that was held over in the House.

 

Cuba bill held over

 

Tuesday of this week, the House Agriculture Finance Committee heard H.F. 772 authored by Rep. Jack Considine that would appropriate money to the Department of Agriculture to work to promote and develop trading relationships with Cuba. The Committee heard great testimony from the Kaehler family from Winona County who have great knowledge of Cuba. The bill was held over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill and MFU strongly supports.  Sen. Dan Sparks is the Chief Author in the Senate.

 

Forever Green

 

This week MFU also testified on H.F. 693 authored by Rep. David Bly that is known as the “Forever Green” Initiative at the University of Minnesota. The bill is designed to help Minnesota get a boost on using cover crops and perennial crops.  The bill was laid over. Sen. Kevin Dahle is the Senate author; you can see more info here: http://www.cinram.umn.edu/forevergreen/

 

Industrial Hemp bill moving

 

MFU testified in favor of S.F. 618 authored by Sen. Kent Eken, also known as the Industrial Hemp Act before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. The bill passed and was sent to the State Government Committee.  This week for the first time law enforcement raised concerns about the bill and how they would know the difference between a bale of hemp and a bale of marijuana if an officer stopped a truck on the highway.  MFU is confident law enforcements concerns can be addressed and will keep the bill moving. Rep. Mary Franson is the House author.

 

Ag Education bills heard

 

Several interesting bills were heard this week that address shortage of ag teachers and also concerns with Farm Business Management. Among them; S.F. 961 from Sen. Vicky Jensen which is a grant program is established to support school districts in paying agricultural education teachers for work over the summer with high school students in extended projects; H.F.880 authored by Rep. Paul Anderson that establishes a $3,000-per-qualified-teacher-per-year loan forgiveness program available for up to five years to licensed agricultural education teachers, and finally H.F. 1051 authored by Rep. Jeanne Poppe that takes a number of steps to support existing agricultural education programs and encourage Minnesotans to become licensed agricultural educators. It’s great to see all of these bills talking about this important issue. MFU will continue to work on them as they move through the process.

 

Seed Legislation

 

The Senate Agriculture Committee heard S.F. 961 authored by Sen. Roger Reinert from Duluth that would work to address an issue that came up this year when the MN Dept. of Agriculture shut down a “seed library” in Duluth. The bill eliminates the giving away of seeds from the definition of “sell” for the purposes of the Minnesota seed law.  With this change, regulation under the Minnesota seed law will not apply to giving away seeds. Rep. Mary Franson is the House author, and the bill was held over for some more work.

 

New State Climate Website

 

The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) has launched a new website aimed at climate change and how it relates to Minnesota and what some of the policies are that interact with climate change, here is a link to the agriculture page: http://climatechangemn.org/agriculture/

 

USDA Confirms H5N2 Avian Influenza in Turkey Flock in MN

 

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza in a commercial turkey flock in Pope County, Minnesota.  This is the first finding in the Mississippi flyway.  It is the same strain of avian influenza that has been confirmed in backyard and wild birds in Washington, Oregon and Idaho as part of the ongoing incident in the Pacific flyway. CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry, to be low. No human infections with these viruses have been detected at this time.  As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses. Federal and State partners are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing in the nearby area, following existing avian influenza response plans.  The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets, and in migratory wild bird populations.  Daily updates on the situation in Minnesota will be posted on the Minnesota Board of Animal Health’s website.

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

 

Spring Issue meetings

 

MFU is holding several spring issue meetings starting on March 23rd at the Irishman’s Shanty in Crookston, checkout full list here: http://www.mfu.org/pages/Events/

 

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union

 


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday March 6th, 2015

 

MFU President testifies on Veterans bill

 

Monday of this week MFU President Doug Peterson testified before the House Veterans Committee in support of H.F. 545 authored by Rep. Clark Johnson that requires the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) to establish a pilot program that encourages veterans to enter agricultural and food production-related career fields. $150,000 is appropriated to MnSCU in FY 2016, and $600,000 is appropriated in FY 2017 for this purpose. The pilot program is to be coordinated by the Southern Minnesota Center for excellence for agriculture at the North Mankato campus of South Central College, in collaboration with a number of additional entities with relevant expertise, as specified in paragraph (c) of the bill. In addition to South Central College, funds are appropriated to offer the program at up to six additional colleges in FY 2017, including one in the metro area and five in greater Minnesota. Enrollees in the pilot program would undergo an intensive four-to-eight week training involving academic study, employer-outreach and job development, and the development of career-building skills. Upon completion enrollees would earn a certificate of completion or other appropriate academic credit. The bill passed and was sent to the Higher Education Committee; Sen. Kathy Sheran is the Senate author.

 

MFU launches new Veterans Program

 

MFU has introduced a new program dedicated to the veterans of the armed services living and working in Minnesota. “Our nation has a long history of support of the education and retraining of our veterans,” stated Minnesota Farmers Union President, Doug Peterson, “it is within that spirit of supporting veterans, that Minnesota Farmers Union is launching “MN Vets”, aimed at connecting veterans to farmers and farming.” This new program will focus on:

  • Education on farming practices and techniques to help veterans learn or build on their farming skills.
  • Building relationships within the farming organization to build strong networks.
  • Connections with and directions to organizations to get funding for land and information on available land.
  • Having the information to find grants, land, loans and programs through various partnerships with state and county organizations that are focused on assisting veterans;

 

These are just some of the highlights of the new MFU program that is being launched. We look forward to helping those who have done their part to help us. Members who have questions can call MFU at 651-639-1223.

 

Buffer Update

 

This next week members will be able to get a look at legislation concerning Governor Dayton’s buffer proposal. Rep. Paul Torkelson will carry the bill in the House and will present it to the House Environment Committee Tuesday morning. MFU will be consulting policy, the recently passed special order and members after seeing the bill.

 

Buffer Strip Summit Will be held in Mazeppa

 

 

MFU members are invited to attend a buffer summit Friday March 13th in Mazeppa at the Community Center hosted by S.O.M. Generators, a soil health group.  Buffer strips have been part of Minnesota drainage laws since 1959. Because these rules have not been uniformly enforced, this last January Governor Dayton asked the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to strengthen and take over enforcement of the law to provide consistent enforcement throughout our state.  Changes to the law are being proposed, with penalties from enforcement being looked at to fund the program.   The day-long event will conclude with an open forum on the buffer strip initiative at 7 p.m.  The forum will be chaired by Representative Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa.  Panel members will consist of state regulatory personnel, as well as several area Legislators. Other sessions include:  a 1 p.m. photographic presentation featuring the local landscape of the Zumbro Watershed, a 2 p.m. presentation on regenerative agriculture management methods, and a 3 p.m. presentation on the history of the Zumbro River.  Refreshments will be served during the day.  The community center is located on the Main Street of Mazeppa.

 

Soil and Water bills heard

 

MFU testified in support of a trio of bills heard this week before the Senate Environment Committee that would boost funding to Minnesota Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The bills which addressed taxing authority for SWCD’s and direct appropriations were authored by Sens. Skoe, Lourey, and Sparks. The Lourey and Sparks bill were moved forward and MFU will continue to work on these bills to improve funding. Members who have questions should feel free to contact me.

 

Farmer-Lender Mediation

 

The House Agriculture Policy Committee heard H.F. 1235 authored by Rep. Paul Anderson that would extend the Farmer-Lender Mediation program until 2021 but would raise the qualifying threshold from $5,000 to $75,000. MFU testified against the latter provision. The University of Minnesota Extension which runs the program provided information that showed hundreds of cases would be negatively affected by this bill. The bill was laid on the table. Sen Dan Sparks is the Senate author.

 

Ag Research/ Education bill

 

The House and Senate Ag Committees also this week heard H.F. 779/ S.F. 820 authored by Rep. Rod Hamilton and Sen. Dan Sparks that establishes an Agriculture Research, Education, Extension, and Technology Transfer Board to award general fund grants that most efficiently achieve long-term agricultural productivity increases through improved infrastructure, vision, and accountability. The board would be comprised of agricultural and forest-product interests, the University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The board would issue approximately $18.7 million in grants each year, with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture allowed to use a portion of the appropriation each year for the agency’s direct costs to act as fiscal agent and to provide administrative services to the board. A portion of grant funding each year would be dedicated to agricultural education and rapid response to plant and animal diseases and pests. MFU supports this legislation.

 

Beginning Farmers Legislation

 

MFU also testified in support of S.F. 933/H.F. 812 authored by Rep. David Bly and Sen. Lyle Koenen before Ag Committees that would expand on the Rural Finance Authority’s (RFA) beginning farmer program. It authorizes credits against state individual income and/or corporate franchise tax for persons who sell or rent farm assets to qualified beginning farmers, and qualified beginning farmers who take an approved financial management course. There were a lot of interest in these bills and MFU will continue to work on them as they move through the process.  Rep. Paul Marquart also presented similar legislation to the committee that was held over in the House.

 

Cuba bill held over

 

Tuesday of this week, the House Agriculture Finance Committee heard H.F. 772 authored by Rep. Jack Considine that would appropriate money to the Department of Agriculture to work to promote and develop trading relationships with Cuba. The Committee heard great testimony from the Kaehler family from Winona County who have great knowledge of Cuba. The bill was held over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill and MFU strongly supports.  Sen. Dan Sparks is the Chief Author in the Senate.

 

Forever Green

 

This week MFU also testified on H.F. 693 authored by Rep. David Bly that is known as the “Forever Green” Initiative at the University of Minnesota. The bill is designed to help Minnesota get a boost on using cover crops and perennial crops.  The bill was laid over. Sen. Kevin Dahle is the Senate author; you can see more info here: http://www.cinram.umn.edu/forevergreen/

 

Industrial Hemp bill moving

 

MFU testified in favor of S.F. 618 authored by Sen. Kent Eken, also known as the Industrial Hemp Act before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. The bill passed and was sent to the State Government Committee.  This week for the first time law enforcement raised concerns about the bill and how they would know the difference between a bale of hemp and a bale of marijuana if an officer stopped a truck on the highway.  MFU is confident law enforcements concerns can be addressed and will keep the bill moving. Rep. Mary Franson is the House author.

 

Ag Education bills heard

 

Several interesting bills were heard this week that address shortage of ag teachers and also concerns with Farm Business Management. Among them; S.F. 961 from Sen. Vicky Jensen which is a grant program is established to support school districts in paying agricultural education teachers for work over the summer with high school students in extended projects; H.F.880 authored by Rep. Paul Anderson that establishes a $3,000-per-qualified-teacher-per-year loan forgiveness program available for up to five years to licensed agricultural education teachers, and finally H.F. 1051 authored by Rep. Jeanne Poppe that takes a number of steps to support existing agricultural education programs and encourage Minnesotans to become licensed agricultural educators. It’s great to see all of these bills talking about this important issue. MFU will continue to work on them as they move through the process.

 

Seed Legislation

 

The Senate Agriculture Committee heard S.F. 961 authored by Sen. Roger Reinert from Duluth that would work to address an issue that came up this year when the MN Dept. of Agriculture shut down a “seed library” in Duluth. The bill eliminates the giving away of seeds from the definition of “sell” for the purposes of the Minnesota seed law.  With this change, regulation under the Minnesota seed law will not apply to giving away seeds. Rep. Mary Franson is the House author, and the bill was held over for some more work.

 

New State Climate Website

 

The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) has launched a new website aimed at climate change and how it relates to Minnesota and what some of the policies are that interact with climate change, here is a link to the agriculture page: http://climatechangemn.org/agriculture/

 

USDA Confirms H5N2 Avian Influenza in Turkey Flock in MN

 

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza in a commercial turkey flock in Pope County, Minnesota.  This is the first finding in the Mississippi flyway.  It is the same strain of avian influenza that has been confirmed in backyard and wild birds in Washington, Oregon and Idaho as part of the ongoing incident in the Pacific flyway. CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry, to be low. No human infections with these viruses have been detected at this time.  As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses. Federal and State partners are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing in the nearby area, following existing avian influenza response plans.  The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets, and in migratory wild bird populations.  Daily updates on the situation in Minnesota will be posted on the Minnesota Board of Animal Health’s website.

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

 

Spring Issue meetings

 

MFU is holding several spring issue meetings starting on March 23rd at the Irishman’s Shanty in Crookston, checkout full list here: http://www.mfu.org/pages/Events/

 

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union

 


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday Jan. 30th, 2015

Legislative notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday Jan. 30th, 2015

SouthEast Lobby Day Tuesday

Tuesday Feb. 3rd will be the first of three MFU lobby days at the Capitol in St. Paul this year. Members from SE Minnesota will visit with area legislators and attend committee hearings. If you are interested in attending contact the MFU office. The day runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. See www.mfu.org for more information on other days as well.

MFU President testifies

Thursday of this past week MFU President Doug Peterson testified before the Senate Environment and Energy Committee chaired by Sen. John Marty at an informational hearing on the purpose of environmental review, and the history and value of citizen involvement in the process.  Some have suggested looking at making changes to the environmental review process this year, MFU policy supports the current process.

Governor budget released

Governor Mark Dayton has released his budget recommendations for the 2016-2017 budget years. Included in the recs are additional dollars for two of MFU’s priorities: meat inspection and wolf depredation. The Governor also recommends fully funding AGRI, MN Grown, dairy and organic programs and other MFU priorities. The Governor is recommending some fee increases on seed, feed and dairy inspection. MFU will be visiting with members about these increases. It is pretty lengthy but budget documents can be found here: http://mn.gov/mmb/budget/currentbud/gov16-17/

Ag Homestead

MFU testified this week with concerns about S.F. 9 authored by Sen. Rod Skoe that would make certain changes to ag homestead classifications to address concerns county assessors have about the current process. This bill would result in over 6,000 properties losing homestead classification. MFU will continue to work on this issue with members, legislators and the assessors. See more here: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=Senate&f=SF0009&ssn=0&y=2015

Agritoursim bill to be heard

The House and Senate Agriculture Policy committees will hear Agritourism bills next Wednesday that are supported by MFU that provides certain farmers who engage in agritourism activities basic liability protection from certain inherent risks. The bills are authored by Rep. Paul Anderson and Sen. Matt Schmit. For more information see here: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=House&f=HF0216&ssn=0&y=2015

Wolf Depredation bill introduced

Rep. John Persell along with Reps. Melin and Metsa have introduced H.F. 348 which would allocate dollars back to the MN Dept. of Agriculture wolf and elk depredation fund. The fund is currently out of money. The Governor’s budget proposes $200,000 over the biennium to the account; this is one of MFU’s legislative priorities.

Carlton County Farmers Union to hold wolf meeting

The Carlton County Farmers Union will hold a county meeting Friday Feb. 13th at 10:00 a.m. at Gampers near Moose Lake to hear updates on current situation with wolves resulting from the lawsuit by HSUS. Legislators and administration officials are invited and as well area farmers are invited to attend.

Groups petition to put wolves on threatened list

Animal protection and conservation organizations have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act as threatened throughout the contiguous United States, with the exception of the Mexican gray wolf which remains listed as endangered. If adopted, the proposal would continue federal oversight and funding of wolf recovery efforts and encourage development of a national recovery plan for the species, but would also give the Fish and Wildlife Service regulatory flexibility to permit state and local wildlife managers to address specific wolf conflicts. Ironically among the groups is the Humane Society of the U.S. which filed the original lawsuit that has caused a lot of the headache, read full release here: http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2015/01/esa-threatened-gray-wolves-012715.html

Hasnedl Named to AURI Board

Jerry Hasnedl has been named to the Board of Directors of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) representing a statewide farm organization (MFU) Hasnedl, a longtime member of MFU, grew his family farm in St. Hilaire, Minnesota, from 600 acres to 3,200 acres from 1980 through today. He was on the CHS (formerly Harvest States) Board of Directors from 1995-2014, serving as secretary treasurer and chairman of the board for part of that time.

NFU releases COOL study

 

Contrary to arguments made by America’s trade competitors to the World Trade Organization (WTO), an economic downturn that sapped consumer demand — not Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) — caused decreased demand for cattle imports into to the U.S., according to a new study released today. “COOL did not cause the declines in livestock exports to the United States, which largely coincided with a substantial global economic downturn that sapped demand for more expensive meat products,” notes the study, authored by C. Robert Taylor, Ph.D., an Auburn University Alfa Eminent Scholar and Professor. Canada and Mexico challenged COOL provisions related to muscle cuts o beef at the WTO in 2008, alleging the widely popular labeling law was a trade barrier that compromised their export opportunities and market access to the United States for live cattle and hogs. The cost of implementing COOL, they argued, discouraged U.S. meatpacking and processing companies from purchasing livestock of non-U.S. origin and, as a result, reduced the prices of these livestock exports. Previous findings were submitted to WTO by Canadian interests that are “adamantly opposed to COOL and is a plaintiff in a COOL lawsuit against the USDA.” Moreover, data provided to the Canadian consultants was not publicly available.  A PowerPoint to accompany the study’s findings can be found here.

Walz appointed to Subcommittees

Recently, Rep. Tim Walz (MN-01) was appointed to be the Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. The Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management has the following responsibilities:

Jurisdiction: Policies, statutes, and markets relating to commodities including barley, cotton, cottonseed, corn, grain sorghum, honey, mohair, oats, other oilseeds, peanuts, pulse crops, rice, soybeans, sugar, wheat, and wool; including the Commodity Credit Corporation; risk management policies and statutes, including Federal Crop Insurance; producer data and privacy issues.

 Oversight: Departmental, agency, and office oversight and investigations with respect to the mission areas of the Risk Management Agency and applicable operations of the Farm Service Agency.

 Klobuchar/Franken urge farmers to look at REAP Grants

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting applications for Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants to help Minnesota farmers lower energy costs and boost renewable energy. Minnesota farmers received $560,000 in grants through USDA's rural energy program in 2014 for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Klobuchar successfully fought to provide an additional $100 million for REAP in the 2014 Farm Bill. Franken helped write the energy section of the 2014 Farm Bill, including reauthorization of REAP. More info here: http://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=3033

Value-Added Grants

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has another round of funding available for projects to help farmers, producers and processors add value to their operations. A total of $1 million in funding has been made available through the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation Program (AGRI), established by the legislature to advance Minnesota’s agricultural and renewable energy industries.  The MDA will distribute the funds through its AGRI Value Added Grant Program which aims to increase sales of Minnesota agricultural products by diversifying markets and by increasing market access and food safety. Specifically, these grants are intended to:

§ start, expand or update livestock product processing businesses;

§ purchase equipment to start, upgrade, or modernize value added businesses;

§ increase on-farm food safety, such as implementation of a food safety plan

§ increase farmers’ processing and aggregating capacity to sell to schools, hospitals or

This round of applications must be received no later than 4:00 p.m. on March 6, 2015. Grant applications are submitted through our online system. The application is accessed through a link on the MDA Value Added website: www.mda.state.mn.us/valueadded.aspx.

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union

 


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Jan. 23, 2015

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday January 23, 2015

 

Buffers!

This past week MFU President Doug Peterson attended the annual DNR Roundtable where Governor Mark Dayton announced an ambitious new initiative of a minimum 50-foot buffer strip protecting every stream, drainage ditch and river in the state, with the MN DNR being in charge on enforcement. He said his proposal would create 125,000 acres of habitat for pheasants, other wildlife and pollinator insects, as well as reduce water pollution from runoff. Current state laws mandate buffers of 50 feet or 16.5 feet around many waterways in agricultural lands, but the laws aren't uniformly enforced, and many waters are exempt. MFU has been looking at policy and visiting with state agency staff and legislators, but so far there are no details on the proposal. When MFU has details it will share them with members and compare to policy to decide a position. I encourage members to contact me with their thoughts on this issue.

 

Overviews!

The 2015 Legislative session is off and running with lots of overviews from state agencies as legislators get important updates on state agency budgets and issues. MFU has sat in on updates from MN Dept. of Agriculture, MN DNR, MN PCA, and the BWSR this past week. Next week Governor Dayton will release details of his proposed budget.

 

MFU testifies on wolf delisting

 

This past week MFU testified before the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Committee Chaired by Rep. Tom Hackbarth on the recent federal court decision that returned the wolf to the threatened/ endangered species list. MFU testified that the organization recently sent a letter to the Dept. of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging that they appeal decision. MFU also testified about being concerned that the MN Dept. of Agriculture recently exhausted the depredation account that pays farmers who suffer livestock losses. Farmers may still be eligible for compensation through the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) through the USDA.

 

Agritourism bill introduced

Rep. Paul Anderson and Sen. Matt Schmit have introduced one of MFU’s priorities known as Agritourism legislation that would provide farmers who engage in agritourism events which involve having visitors to their farms some basic liability protection from certain inherent risks. MFU also spoke this past week at the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers on the issue and they passed a resolution in support of legislation. See more on bill here: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=House&f=HF0216&ssn=0&y=2015

 

COOL report released

 

Contrary to arguments made by America’s trade competitors to the World Trade Organization (WTO), an economic downturn that sapped consumer demand — not Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) — caused decreased demand for cattle imports into to the U.S., according to a new study released today. “COOL did not cause the declines in livestock exports to the United States, which largely coincided with a substantial global economic downturn that sapped demand for more expensive meat products,” notes the study, authored by C. Robert Taylor, Ph.D., an Auburn University Alfa Eminent Scholar and Professor. Canada and Mexico challenged COOL provisions related to muscle cuts of beef at the WTO in 2008, alleging the widely popular labeling law was a trade barrier that compromised their export opportunities and market access to the United States for live cattle and hogs. The cost of implementing COOL, they argued, discouraged U.S. meatpacking and processing companies from purchasing livestock of non-U.S. origin and, as a result, reduced the prices of these livestock exports. But after close examination of more robust data sources to assess the impact of COOL on market access, the study found:

 

·        COOL has not had a significant negative effect on the price paid for imported slaughter cattle relative to comparable domestic cattle. In fact, the fed cattle price basis declined after the law went into effect. “The price basis is lower in the six years since implementation of COOL than it was the preceding four years,” the study notes;

 

·        COOL did not negatively impact imports of slaughter cattle. “Qualitative and econometric analysis of Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) and monthly trade and price data cast considerable doubt on assertions that COOL negatively affected imports of slaughter cattle,” says the study. Failure to recognize the effects of imported and domestic captive supplies of slaughter cattle and beef demand uncertainty, along with other factors, played a larger role in reduced import demand than acknowledged in previous studies.

 

·         COOL did not significantly affect imports of feeder cattle. “USDA monthly data on imports of 400-700 lb. cattle did not show COOL having a significant negative effect of imports of feeder cattle from either Canada or Mexico relative to placements in U.S. feedlots,” the study points out. 

basis trends reflect actual operational slaughter costs and offer a distinct perspective from which to assess beef packers’ statements about the costs of COOL to the U.S. packing industry.”

Previous findings were submitted to WTO by Canadian interests that are “adamantly opposed to COOL and is a plaintiff in a COOL lawsuit against the USDA.” Moreover, data provided to the Canadian consultants was not publicly available.  

 

The study concludes that cattle exports to the U.S. are subject to a number of variables that are completely independent of the implementation of COOL. “In light of this reasoning, A PowerPoint to accompany the study’s findings can be found here.

 

Meatpacking report released

 

The Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor released the program evaluation, State Protections for Meatpacking Workers, on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. The full report is available at the Office of the Legislative Auditor, Room 140 Centennial Building, 658 Cedar Street, St. Paul or online at http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/

 

House research ag report

 

The Minnesota House of Representatives nonpartisan House Research Department has released a new report entitled “The Minnesota Farmer: Demographic Trends and Relevant Laws”, see report here:  http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/minnfarmer.pdf

 

Peterson sends wolf letter

 

Rep. Collin Peterson has sent a letter to the Department of the Interior urging the Secretary to appeal a court ruling last month and return management of gray wolves to the state of Minnesota. Since 2011, the gray wolf population has thrived while remaining under Minnesota management. I have long supported state-controlled wolf population management, which provides a legal avenue to balance safety, economic, and species population issues. Peterson says he has heard from farmers and ranchers in the 7th District of Minnesota who are concerned about protecting their livestock from predatory wolves.

 

Kline to sponsor wolf legislation

 

This February Congressman John Kline (R-MN) will reintroduce his Western Great Lakes Wolf Management Act.  This bill prohibits listing any wolf in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan from being treated under any status of the Endangered Species Act, and provides that each state has exclusive jurisdiction over the management of wolves within its borders. In 2012 the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) removed Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves in the Western Great Lake states. In these states, wolf counts exceeded the population criteria identified by the USFWS for gray wolf recovery continuously since at least 2001. In spite of this, in December of 2014 the D.C. Circuit Court overturned the 2012 delisting and ordered USFWS to “reinstate immediately the protections for gray wolves in the affected area as those protections existed prior to the Final Rule's effective date."

 

NFU Submits comments on CSP

 

NFU President Roger Johnson submitted comments recently to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on an interim rule regarding the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), commending NRCS for their promotion of conservation in agriculture and offering suggestions to focus the program more heavily on conservation outcomes. “Family farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists,” said Johnson. “NFU members understand that stewardship of our natural resources is crucial to long-term farm viability and the integrity of the food supply.” Johnson pointed out that NFU policy, enacted annually by delegates to the organization’s national convention, states, “Conservation programs should be fully funded to benefit the environment, reward stewardship of land and water resources and marine habitat, discourage speculative development of fragile land resources, strengthen family farming, and enhance rural communities.”  Johnson also noted that CSP currently ranks new conservation practices disproportionally higher than existing conservation practices for both ranking and payment amount decisions. The interim rule reaffirms NRCS’ prioritization of new conservation practices in section 1470.24 (a) that, “A split-rate annual payment structure is used to provide separate payments for additional and existing conservation activities in order to place emphasis on implementing additional conservation.”

 

Other bill introductions of note

Feel free to contact me about any of these.

H. F. 60, Rep. Greg Davids
·      changes in agricultural homestead determinations

H. F. 100,  Rep. Kim Norton

  • allowing schools to begin before Labor Day

H. F. 106, Rep. Pat Garafalo

  • eminent domain; establishing a "buy the farm" option for real property owners whose property is taken for intercity high-speed rail use

H. F. 167, Rep. Bud Nornes

  • taxation; sales and use; exempting agricultural drain tiles from sales tax

H. F. 179, Rep. Karen Clark

  • relating to sustainable agriculture; modifying certain programs and grants

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, MN Farmers Union


Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union 11-25-16

Legislative notes from the MN Farmers Union Tuesday November 25, 2014

 

MFU convention wraps up, passes special orders

 

The Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) held its 73rd annual state convention this past weekend on Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23.  Policy and special orders were debated and passed; and delegates were elected for the National Convention in Wichita, Kansas, March 14-17, 2015. “Minnesota Farmers Union is about bringing common-sense solutions to the table when ag policy is being discussed, and that is why our convention is so important, because this is where our policy is debated and decided by our county-elected delegates,” said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President.  MFU delegates debated and passed the following special orders of business:

·         -Minnesota Farmers Union strongly reaffirms its support for COOL and urges the USDA to appeal the WTO decision and fully exhaust all options in keeping COOL and further urges Congress not to make any changes to COOL until appeal has taken place.

·         Minnesota Farmers Union reaffirms its support for Farm Business Management (FBM) and urges strong dedicated funding for the program and urges the Minnesota State College & University’s (MNSCU) to place a priority on bolstering the program both through funding and promotion. We further support investigating other avenues of support for the program including through the MN Department of Agriculture.

·         -Minnesota Farmers Union opposes the Congressional use of trade promotion authority (TPA) otherwise known as “fast track” to approve the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Trade Agreement

·         Minnesota Farmers Union supports the improvement of freight rail service in our rural communities including the expansion and upgrade of rural freight railways and infrastructure as long as there is a guaranteed increase in local service with respect and consideration to local impacts, and further oppose fines being levied for cancelled contracts against farmers and cooperatives due to railroad inefficiencies, and we support policies requiring railroads to fully fund local fire and emergency personnel training, and necessary equipment to protect our local communities from flammable and hazardous cargos.

 

Convention Speakers

 

During the convention, a team from MNSURE and Farmers Union Agency were on-hand to offer free consultations and speak about Minnesota’s health insurance exchange and the current open enrollment.  Speakers included: Senator Amy Klobuchar; Senator Al Franken; Dave Frederickson, Department of Agriculture Commissioner; Chandler Goule, National Farmers Union Vice President of Government Relations; and Bruce Abbe, Executive Director MidWest Shippers Association. Convention goers also heard from the MN Farmers Service Agency, with Darrel Larsen and Grant Herfindal joining FSA ED Debra Crusoe in explaining new farm bill programs.

 

MFU Honors Lahammer

 

MFU honored Mary Lahammer of Twin Cities Public Television with their 2014 Outstanding Media Communications Award at the Minnesota Farmers Union 73rd annual state convention, held Nov. 22-23, 2014 at the Ramada Plaza in Minneapolis. “Mary Lahammer is a farm and city girl who appreciates rural communities and family farmers.  It’s rare that you have a professional personality that is so widely respected and revered for her support of family farmers, consumers and chefs.” said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President.

 

MFU Honors Blehyl

 

MFU honored Julie Bleyhl of Lac Qui Parle County with their Distinguished Service with Excellence in Membership and Policy Award at the Minnesota Farmers Union 73rd annual state convention, held Nov. 22-23, 2014 at the Ramada Plaza in Minneapolis. Julie has been a long-time supporter and member of the Minnesota Farmers Union currently residing in Lac Qui Parle County, where she has an ongoing agricultural involvement in her family’s grain and livestock farm.  She is on the Board of Directors for Agriculture Utilization Research Institute (AURI). Julie has had much success and leadership throughout her career, serving more than 30 years in various capacities supporting Farmers Union members & policies, including serving as the assistant to the president of MFU, to her long involvement in the legislative services of MFU- starting as an intern to being a director of the legislative department. Julie has achieved all of this while working full-time and taking care of the Bleyhl family farm. Julie currently resides in Lac Qui Parle County and is the Farmers Union County President for that area.

 

Other MFU Awards

 

MFU also presented the Lifetime Service Award to Jim and Mary Stone from Canby, the Educator Award to Ed Terry, Ag teacher at Randolph, and Dedicated Service Award to MFU to Darrell Larsen from Morrison County and Grant Herfindahl from Swift County. They have both provided years of great FSA columns for the MFU paper Minnesota Agriculture.

 

Delegates Elected to NFU convention

 

Five delegates and alternates were elected to the NFU convention in Wichita, Kansas in March, they are: District 1:

Delegate: Bryan Klabunde, Mahnomen County

Alternate: Alton Walker, Clearwater County

District 2:

Delegate: Steve Sunderland, Chippewa County

Alternate: Larry Anderson, Big Stone County

District 3:

Delegate: Ted Suss, Redwood County

Alternate: Ted Winter, Nobles County

District 4:

Delegate: Carol Anderson, Benton County

Alternate: Al Perish, Todd County

District 5:

Delegate: Katherine Wiste, Houston County

Alternate: Gary Joachim, Steele County

 

NFU on RFS Delay

 

NFU President Roger Johnson called the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent announcement that the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume targets would not be released before the end of the year a ‘serious disappointment.’ Johnson also noted that NFU remains hopeful the delay will allow the agency to return the RFS target levels back to the statutory targets. “Ethanol and all biofuels has been the best thing to happen to farm country in generations, and the volume standards that are supposed to be set by EPA are a significant help in establishing the market for biofuels,” said Johnson. The RFS is our nation’s main policy driver for renewable fuels, and since its creation by Congress has created $184.5 billion in economic impact while supporting 852,056 jobs nationwide. Johnson noted that the biofuels industries – and the farmers who grow the grains they use – are poised for continued growth here in the U.S., but need a clear signal that the targets will remain firm. Johnson hopes that the delay will give EPA the time it needs to get the numbers right.

 

House name Committee Chairs

 

Rep. Rod Hamilton has been named the Chair of the House Agriculture Finance Committee and Rep. Paul Anderson has been named the Chair of the House Agriculture Policy Committee. Both of these Chairs are members MFU has worked with well in the past and we look forward to working with them in the upcoming session. Other key chairs are Rep. Greg Davids being named Chair of the Tax Committee and Rep. Steve Drazkowski has been named Chair of the Property Tax Division. In addition Rep. Denny McNamara has been named Chair of the Environment Policy and Finance Committee.

 

MFU submits Wotus Comments

 

Recently MFU submitted comments to the U.S. EPA on the proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS)

rule. In MFU’s comments MFU highlighted that our organization believes at this time the proposed rule should not go forward and that there is too much uncertainty currently and the proposed rule would do little to improve that situation.

 

Clean Water Council

 

MFU testified recently before the Clean Water Council in support of funding for the “Forever Green” Initiative at the University of Minnesota that works to get more perennial crops on the landscape through research and technical assistance. You can read more about it here: http://www.cinram.umn.edu/forevergreen/ . The Clean Water Council also just released its funding recommendations for 2016-17, which among other things includes dollars for a new CREP program, you can see them here: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/about-mpca/mpca-overview/councils-and-forums/clean-water-council/clean-water-council-publications.html

 

MN Organic Conference

 

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has opened registration for the 2015 Minnesota Organic Conference. This farmer-focused event and associated trade show is being held January 9-10 in St. Cloud. Organizers expect 500-600 people to attend and are offering an early bird discount rate until December 26. “There’s a strong market for organic; demand is really outpacing supply,” said conference co-organizer Meg Moynihan.  Attendees can choose from more than 36 practical, educational sessions during the two day event. Topics include soil quality and fertility, weed management, marketing, livestock health, organic certification requirements, energy conservation, and forage and grazing management. Presenters include many experienced organic farmers, as well as university researchers, agency and nonprofit staff. In addition, two nationally known speakers will keynote the event. Ken Cook, co-founder and president of the Environmental Working Group will speak Friday. David Montgomery, who wrote the award winning book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, speaks Saturday. Program information, registration forms, and a growing list of trade show vendors are available at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/organic/conference.aspx or call 651-201-6012 for a registration brochure.

 

Conaway named Ag Chair

 

 

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson recently made the following statement after it was announced that Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, will succeed Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., to chair the House Agriculture Committee during the 114th Congress. “I congratulate Congressman Conaway on his election to Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. As a fellow CPA, I think we can find common ground as the Committee oversees farm bill implementation and reauthorizing the CFTC during the next Congress. The Agriculture Committee has a strong bipartisan tradition, which I look forward to continuing under Chairman Conaway.

 

That is all for now, as usual, questions, comments and complaint to me!

 

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union

 


Notes from the MN Farmers Union 7-16-14

Legislative Update from the MN Farmers Union Wednesday July 16, 2014

Emergency CRP haying and grazing

MFU participated in a call this week and has sent a letter to the MN FSA supporting emergency haying and grazing in Minnesota counties affected by excessive moisture this spring.  The state FSA is expected to seek approval from the USDA for the emergency declaration that would begin after primary nesting season which begins August 1st.

WOTUS

MFU continues to study and ask questions regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule to the Clean Water Act known as waters of the U.S. or WOTUS which the EPA says would provide protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation's water resources. The EPA is currently in a comment period on the proposed rule; the comment period was recently extended until October 20th, 2014. On behalf of the membership, MFU recently submitted comments on the interpretive rule that is now part of the Clean Water Act to address the exemption from permitting provided under section 404(f) (1) (A) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for discharges of dredged or fill material associated with certain agricultural conservation practices based on the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation practice standards.  Members who would like more information can check out http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters and I encourage members who have comments and questions on this issue to please feel free to contact me directly.

Organic Cost Share

Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Commissioner Dave Frederickson has signed an agreement with USDA to offer an organic certification cost share program again in 2014. In August, the MDA will begin accepting applications for this program, which refunds up to 75 percent of the certification costs organic farmers and handlers pay for certification. MDA Organic Program Administrator Meg Moynihan said farmers in Minnesota pay between $360 and $6,000 for organic certification each year, depending on the size and type of operation and the certifying agency they choose. She said the median cost of certification for organic handlers, which includes food processors, feed mills, brokers, and other related enterprises, was about $2,300 in 2012. More information and application materials will be available when MDA opens the program in August. Information about organic practices, certification requirements, and other related topics is available right now at the MDA’s web site: www.mda.state.mn.us/organic . MFU has long supported certification cost share for organic farmers.

BWSR seeking public board member

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources are seeking to fill a Public Member position on the Board (which could be a farmer!). The position is appointed by the Governor and has a $55 per day per diem. For more information or to apply see: http://www.sos.state.mn.us/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=13947

NFU says stay the course on RFS

President Roger Johnson spoke recently at a briefing at the U.S. House of Representatives on the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The briefing was hosted by Fuels America in cooperation with Reps. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, and Lee Terry, R-Neb. “It is crucial that Congress not change the RFS and for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve the 2014 RFS targets in order to provide certainty for farmers and the ethanol industry,” said Johnson. “EPA was originally going to finalize its 2014 Renewable Volume Obligation in June, but is now moving the date until September,” Johnson continued. “NFU has strongly encouraged EPA to fix its flawed proposal. EPA needs to begin to align itself with rural America. It will be difficult to build trust in the countryside if EPA does not greatly improve the 2014 RFS targets.”

MAWQCP

This past week I attended a meeting of the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program (MAEQCP) in Fergus Falls to hear updates on the four pilot areas and tour the first producer to sign up in the Whiskey Creek area in Wilkin County. Five farmers are now officially certified in Minnesota with more coming. MAWQCP is a voluntary program designed to accelerate adoption of on-farm conservation practices that protect Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. Producers who implement and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn assured that their operation meets the state’s water quality goals and standards for a period of 10 years. For more information checkout: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/protecting/waterprotection/awqcprogram.aspx

Revision of the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is in the process of revising the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP).  The revision process started in 2010 and included a series of meetings with an Advisory Committee. Between August and November 2013, the MDA hosted six listening sessions and asked for public review and comment on the draft NFMP. The MDA received 32 formal comments; comments were received from a variety of stakeholders. The MDA carefully considered public comments and has prepared two response documents. That can be viewed here: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/chemicals/fertilizers/nutrient-mgmt/nitrogenplan.aspx . MFU will be reviewing these and visiting with members county conventions this fall. One area of interest would be limiting the application of nitrogen in the fall in areas where nitrates are high in drinking water.

MFU Foundation Golf

There is still time to register to golf with myself and other staff, members and friends of MFU at the annual MFU Foundation Best Ball Golf scramble Tuesday July 22nd at the Shoreland Country Club near St. Peter, MN. Check out www.mfu.org for more information, or contact Bruce Miller at 651-288-4064 or Lee Johnson 507-317-7537.

NFU Fly-in to D.C.

There is still time for members interested to register to attend the annual National Farmers Union fly-in to Washington D.C. Sept. 8-10. MFU members will meet with administration officials, Congressional members and staff, and also NFU staff. This is a great experience! Interested members should contact me at 651-288-4067 or thom@mfu.org .

 FarmFest

MFU is busy getting ready for FarmFest August 5-7 near Redwood Falls, MN. There will be several political forums of interest starting with the Governor’s candidate forum on Tuesday August 5th at 10:30 a.m. On Wednesday August 6th there will be a U.S. Senate candidate forum at 10:30 a.m. and a Congressional forum at 1:15 a.m.

Jablonsky new Klobuchar Ag aide in D.C.

MFU congratulates former NFU staff member Brittany Jablonsky on joining the staff of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar where she will be working on agricultural issues. MFU also thanks her for her years of service to NFU!

Resolutions!

County Conventions will begin meeting in August to consider resolutions that could eventually be considered at the November state convention. While there are many issues MFU deals with; these are some of the top issues that MFU is likely to need to deal with in the coming year and feedback from counties is vitally important to our organization as we make decisions on these important issues. Members can consider proposing any of these resolutions from either side of issue.

1.)           Pollinators: A growing issue both in Minnesota and nationally has been the issue of pollinators and loss of habitat and die-offs. MFU is interested in what policy solutions members have to address these issues if any. Proposals have been from limiting or banning certain pesticides to creating more habitat.

2.)           WOTUS: Do MFU members support/oppose current rule being proposed by the U.S. EPA to the Clean Water Act regarding protecting the water of the U.S. or feel they would be too burdensome.

3.)           Transportation: Do MFU members support increased funding for transportation? Gas tax collections continue to decline as do rural roads and bridges, what mechanism and how much do members think are appropriate?

4.)           Nitrogen: The MN Dept. of Agriculture is proposing to update the state Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan which could restrict fall application in certain areas of the state where nitrate levels are high in drinking water, do MFU members support/oppose?

5.)           Rail: Many parts of Minnesota are facing rail car shortages, delays, and higher shipping costs, what ideas do MFU members have on this issue?

6.)           Propane: Last year’s propane shortage highlighted many short comings in the supply chain of propane, with some pipelines closing to propane and others proposed, what are things MFU members would like to see addressed on this issue?

7.)           Nutrition: School nutrition rules have been dramatically changing over the recent years, much due to the push made by First Lady Michelle Obama to promote healthier children. Some schools and lawmakers say they go too far? Do MFU members support/oppose or have suggestions to improve?

8.)           Stray Voltage: Stray voltage continues to be a problem for some Minnesota livestock producers, do MFU members have thoughts on this issue, such as supporting a neutral third party to do inspections?

Many other top  issues such as Renewable Fuels, GMO labeling, wolf hunting, Labor Day School start date, industrial hemp, local control for projects such as sand fracking and tax issue are already covered by MFU policy, but discussion is welcome on these and any other issue at MFU county conventions. Members who have questions on any issues should feel free to contact me.

Events

MFU has several county Farmers Union picnics and county meetings coming be sure to check out www.mfu.org/events for more information!

That is all for now as usual, question, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union


Notes from the MN Farmers Union 5-9-14

Legislative Notes from the MN Farmers Union Friday May 9, 2014

 

Railroads

 

This past week has been a busy for MFU in looking at railroad issues such as delays and seemingly shortage of rail cars. On Tuesday MFU President Doug Peterson along with South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke and Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen met with the Surface Transpiration Board in Sioux Falls, S.D., and also this week MFU VP Gary Wertish attended a meeting with other ag organizations and representatives from Burlington Northern and Canadian Pacific to talk issues. Next week MFU President Peterson will again meet with the STB in Minneapolis to relay concerns we have heard from MFU members. Members that have more information they would like to share on rail issues should contact me or President Peterson by next Tuesday.

 

Tax conference committee approves farm tax relief

 

Conferees of the second omnibus tax bill have agreed to provide Minnesota farmers property tax relief.Farmers will see an enhanced market value for their agricultural farm homestead. The average Minnesota farmer will see between $200 and $400 in relief. The total package is worth $17 million dollars. MFU thanks the legislators working on this top priority for MFU. MFU will continue to work on this issue into next year, as prices for land remain steady and taxes continue to climb. Conferees for the House were: Rep. Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington), Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston), Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls.), Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) and Rep. Linda Slocum (DFL-Mpls.), for the Senate they were: Sen. Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook), Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Baxter), Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Mpls.), and Sen. Lyle Koenen (DFL-Clara City). The conference committee will meet Monday to sign the committee report.

 

Wolf Amendment fails

 

In the past week both bodies have passed the omnibus Game and Fish bills, but not without some discussion on wolves; of particular interest to MFU was an amendment offered by Rep. Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center) that would havereinstated a  5 year waiting period for a wolf hunting & trapping season, the amendment failed 27-36. MFU policy supports the current wolf hunting and trapping season as outlined by the DNR.

 

Budget

 

The Budget Finance Conference Committee continues to slowly chug toward the finish line. Language MFU supports in the budget bill includes funding for the Farm to Food Shelf, industrial hemp, and a pollinator loss compensation fund. In addition MFU is supporting funding for invasive, PED virus, and perennial cover research at the University of Minnesota. MFU will continue to advocate for these programs as the legislature nears the finish line.

 

Bonding bill

 

One issue in the bonding process MFU is watching is for Re-Invest in Minnesota (RIM) funding. The House bonding bill contains $20 million dollars, the Senate bill contains just $2 million. MFU policy supports RIM. A $20 million investment in RIM Reserve will qualify for a range of matches from 1:1 up to 1.5:1 by federal Farm Bill programs.

 

NFU President to China

 

NFU President Roger Johnson is joining Michael Scuse, undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a number of other renewable energy and agriculture leaders from across the country on a mission to promote U.S.-produced biofuels and other agricultural products in northeast China. “The U.S. ethanol industry has developed into an extraordinarily productive, efficient and competitive sector of the economy. I am pleased to have the opportunity to promote homegrown biofuels and their environmental benefits to our trading partners,” said Johnson. The United States could increase domestic demand for biofuels by increasing the percentage of ethanol blended with gasoline. However, the U.S. oil industry has consistently blocked proposals to do so.

 

NFU on Climate assessment

 

NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement on the Obama administration's recent release of the National Climate Assessment:  "The National Climate Assessment only confirms what family farmers and ranchers have been experiencing: global climate change is increasing the occurrence and severity of volatile weather events, which then directly impact agricultural risk, farmers' bottom lines and the entire rural economy. "The administration's report is clear. Congress must take legislative action to mitigate climate change in order to protect farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural communities. Checkout impact on Minnesota here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/MINNESOTA_NCA_2014.pdf

 

Water of the US

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a proposed rule to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation's water resources. Determining Clean Water Act protection for streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Monday, April 21, 2014. The public comment period will be open for 91 days and will close on Monday, July 21, 2014. MFU will be comparing policy to the proposed rule and working on comments. Members can find more information here: http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters

 

Sustainable grants awarded

 

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) awarded $205,000 in Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) funds to 13 projects this year through Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant Projects.  These projects were selected from a competitive pool of 30 grant applications.  MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson chose projects and approved funding based on project design, environmental impact, and the transferability of their work to other farms.  The following projects received portions of the $205,000 distributed for 2014:

  • Nitrogen Capture Using Cover Crops in a Cash Grain Rotation, Sherburne County: Show the effectiveness of cover crops to filter excess nitrogen fertilizer and reduce potential nitrate leaching on irrigated sandy soils.

  • No-till/cover Crop Rotation versus Intensive Tillage in a Corn/soybean Rotation, Grant County: Demonstrate and evaluate a three crop no-till/cover crop rotation and compare to an intensive tillage corn/soybean rotation.

  • Solar-powered Rainwater Catchment and Distribution System Using Drip Irrigation, Fillmore County:  Demonstrate a low-cost, solar-powered, sustainable, easy-to build rainwater harvesting and drip-tape distribution system to reduce dependence on household well water for irrigation, produce processing and supplying livestock.

  • Controlling Canada Thistle in Organic Blueberry Production, Rice County:  Test several methods for controlling Canada thistle in an organic blueberry production system.

  • Preserving and Attracting Native Bees, Clay County: Determine the ideal habitat for native pollinators and also provide an income stream.

  • Developing Profitable Apple Production along Lake Superior's North Shore, St. Louis County: Over three years, using five sites along the north shore of Minnesota, this project will demonstrate high-density trellised apple production and trial modern and historic rootstock.

  • Evaluating Different Depths and Types of Mulches in Blueberry Production, Wadena County: Test mulch mixtures to find the healthiest plant growth by increasing soil micro nutrients, conserving soil moisture, and moderating soil temperature and acidity.

  • Developing Low-cost Planting Materials and Establishment Methods to Accelerate Agroforestry Adoption for Function and Profit, Cass County: Increase low-cost agroforestry systems and demonstrate the use of ecological classification and succession to provide early return on investment and diversify farm income as trees age.

  • The Effects of Cover Crops on Water and Soil Quality, Dakota County: Assist Hmong farmers to incorporate cover crops into their vegetable farming operations while studying soil and water quality improvements.

  • Developing an Integrated Perennial System, Becker County: Study a perennial system of hybrid hazelnut seedlings and native berry plants on a plot of land with low soil quality to determine the system's potential for soil nutrient revitalization and added economic value for farmers in northern Minnesota.

  • Creating Beneficial Habitat for Weed Management and Wildlife Enhancement on Farm Waste Land, Big Stone County: Study best practices to establish pollinator safe zones on farm wasteland and document the kinds and numbers of pollinators targeting monarch butterfly and bumblebees.

  • Using Compost Tea in Organic Farming, Rice County: Seven farms will work cooperatively and each choose one crop to apply compost tea in an effort to develop consistent compost tea recipes for fertility and build cost effective compost tea brewers at a farm scale level.

  • Legume Cover Crops, Wabasha County: Conduct a field study of cover crop legumes to determine the likelihood of a sustainable system where cover crops provide nutrients and reduce soil erosion, in an effort to retain topsoil and nutrients in the field.

    Each grant project will be tracked over its lifetime and results will be published in the MDA’s Greenbook: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/protecting/sustainable/greenbook.aspx. The Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant Program has awarded $3.2 million to 294 grant projects since it began in 1989.  For more information, contact Jeanne Ciborowski, grant program coordinator at jeanne.ciborowski@state.mn.us or 651-201-6217.

 

Farm to School Grants Awarded

 

Several Minnesota school districts are able to upgrade their kitchens thanks to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Farm to School Grant. More than $250,000 is being awarded to fund 15 school districts and their local Farm to School projects. Half of Minnesota’s statewide student population is involved in the program, featuring a delicious pairing of agriculture and academia. The MDA also worked with the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) of Minnesota to get the new food equipment into the hands of the schools. Farm to School has helped schools offset the costs of kitchen upgrades and equipment needed to prepare, serve and preserve locally grown foods. Some grants also fund studies for schools to find the best way to get food from local pasture to plate. The Center for Prevention at BCBS of Minnesota has a history of investment in promoting healthy food environments in schools, including providing support to Farm to School programs across Minnesota. Farm to School was established to create new markets for local growers to provide fresh products for the local school cafeteria. The program coordinates at least $10 million in local purchases annually. Although most purchases involve fruits and vegetables, schools are also purchasing fluid milk, meat or poultry, and grains. Grants are made possible through the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation Program (AGRI), established by the legislature to advance Minnesota’s agricultural and renewable energy industries. Applications are also being accepted for 2015 Farm to School funding and can be found on the MDA’s website: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/grants/mnfarmtoschool.aspx.

 

Franken holds propane meeting

 

Last week, MFU Director of Membership Bruce Miller and Sibley Co. Farmers Union Secretary Frank

Grimm attended a meeting held in Winthrop with Senator Al Franken to talk about propane issues. MFU continues to work with Congressional staff and state officials on this very important issue.

 

Walz, Nolan meet with EPA

 

Recently, Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), and Rick Nolan (D-MN) met with senior officials at the White House to discuss the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The Members shared their strong concerns about the EPA’s proposed rule on the RFS. They also stated their belief that the RFS plays a critical role as an alternative to foreign oil, while benefiting local economies across the country and creating jobs in rural communities. The Midwestern lawmakers released the following statement: “The EPA’s proposed rule would do nothing but undercut a growing American energy industry and further our reliance on foreign oil. Biofuels allow us to take control of our energy future, promote industry innovation, and create thousands of jobs in the Midwest and across the country. We would like to thank the Administration for meeting with us to discuss this important matter. As we move forward, we will continue to advocate for the EPA to abandon their proposed rule on the RFS and support American-made energy.” Representatives Walz, Bustos, and Nolan all sit on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture.

 

Focus on the Future

 

Just a reminder that MFU’s Focus on the Future retreat and County President Board meeting is June 1-3 in Duluth at the Radisson Hotel. It is shaping up to be a great event! Any questions can be directed to Bruce Miller at bruce@mfu.org or 651-288-4064.

 

That is all for now, as usual questions, comments and complaints to me!

 

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union


Farmers Union advocates on behalf of our members at the local, state and federal levels. Our policy is set by our grassroots membership starting at the local level and adopted by our membership at our state convention. Farmers Union advocates on a wide variety of issues; including farm programs, trade, transportation, taxes, health care, and the environment.


Notes from MN Farmers Union 2-11-14

Legislative notes from the MN Farmers Union Tues. Feb. 11th, 2014

Farm bill signed into law!

Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) is pleased that President Obama this past week signed the farm bill after it cleared the Senate January 29th by a 68-32, MFU thanks Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Al Franken for supporting the bill. The House passed the bill on a 251-166 vote. MFU also thanks Reps. Peterson, Nolan, Walz, McCollum, Kline and Paulsen for supporting the bill. “Family farmers thank the Senate for acting swiftly and getting the farm bill passed. We urge President Obama to waste no time in getting this farm bill signed, so family farmers can have the security they need to plan for the future,” said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President. The bill includes:

•              Approximately $4 billion in livestock disaster funds, retroactively available to those who suffered tremendous losses last October;

•              repeals direct payments;

•              protects current crop insurance program;

•              does not repeal permanent law;

•              provides $900 million of mandatory funding for energy programs;

•              includes $30 million a year in mandatory funding for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, with $10 million a year in discretionary funding;

•              includes $20 million a year in mandatory funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative;

•              includes $20 million a year in mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program;

•              addresses fraud within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);

•              reduces SNAP funding by $8 billion over the next 10 years;

•              increases access for livestock producers to Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) benefits, along with many other supportive policies for the livestock industry;

•              does not make any legislative changes to the Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) law;

•              does not make any major adjustments to protections for producers under the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA); and

•              The proposed farm bill reduces spending by about $23 billion over the next 10 years.

 

NFU on Farm bill

 

NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement following President Obama signing the 2014 Farm Bill:  “The president’s signature brings closure to a long process of negotiations, sacrifice and compromise. The result is a solid piece of legislation that provides an adequate safety net in times of need, aids the hungry, protects the environment, creates jobs, keeps Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) intact and helps bolster rural economies. “

 

Propane

 

MFU has been busy working on the propane shortage issue. MFU appreciates the work of our Congressional delegation that have been successful in working with the Obama administration and other agencies at getting waivers and exemptions to move more product and bring more financial assistance to those who need it.  The Minnesota Legislative Energy Commission will hold a hearing tomorrow in St. Paul on the propane issue and MFU President Peterson was featured in an interview on KSTP recently saying we need more answers on shortage check it out here:  http://kstp.com/news/stories/s3316722.shtml

 

MFU President returns from Mexico

 

MFU President Doug Peterson recently traveled to Mexico City, Mexico, for the Trinational Farmers Forum about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). People from the United States, Mexico and Canada participated in the Forum.  The forum was designed to discuss implications of NAFTA at its 20-year mark; share information, and prepare strategy against the Trans Pacific Partnership. President Peterson participated on a panel titled, “Reform for the field – alternatives to support family farming, fair trade, and a better quality of life.”

 

Lamberton citizen appointed to NextGen Board

MFU member Brent Imker of Lamberton has been appointed by Governor Mark Dayton to represent Minnesota Farmers Union on the Next Generation Energy (NextGen) Board replacing me! “The NextGen Board plays a very important role in our state. The members make recommendations as to where our state should head in the field of renewable policy, and I am confident Brent will represent the family farmer well in this capacity,” said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President. According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the NextGen Board has a role to, “to develop bioenergy policies and recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature. The Board will research and recommend how the state can invest its resources to most efficiently achieve energy independence, agricultural and natural resources sustainability, and rural economic vitality.”

Peterson appointed to Trade Council

Governor Mark Dayton recently announced the appointment of MFU President Peterson to the Trade Policy Advisory Council. The council will advise the governor and the legislature on matters relating to United States trade agreements; assess the potential impact of federal trade agreements on the state’s economy; advise the governor and the legislature of the group’s findings and make recommendations, including any draft legislation necessary to implement the recommendations, to the governor and the legislature.

Organic Cost Share

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) reminds growers of the February 14, 2014 deadline to apply for the 2013 Minnesota Organic Transition Cost Share program. The program helps farmers who are transitioning their land or livestock to certified organic status. It reimburses part of the cost to work with a USDA-accredited organic certifying agency during the transition period, which typically lasts 36 months. Certifying agencies visit farms and verify that the farmers’ practices comply with federal organic regulations.  Farmers transitioning to organic can receive a rebate of 75 percent of these eligible costs. The maximum payment is $750 per year for three years or until they achieve organic certification, whichever comes first. “We’ve already had several farmers apply for this program, which was brand new in 2013,” said program administrator Meg Moynihan.  “We’ll be offering it again in 2014, but the chance to apply for reimbursements for costs incurred last year—in 2013—is February 14, 2014.” Application forms for both the 2013 and 2014 programs and a set of Frequently Asked Questions are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic or by calling 651-201-6012.

U of M Colleges merger scrapped

From Minnesota Daily:  The University of Minnesota has scrapped a possible merger of the College of Biological Sciences and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. A task force charged with studying the potential merger found that many stakeholders opposed combining the two colleges, according to a report released Wednesday. In an email to the colleges Wednesday, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson said she would abide by the recommendation but work to strengthen the relationship between the two colleges. “Merging just these two colleges could result in undermining their respective missions,” the committee wrote in its report, adding that it received “overwhelmingly negative feedback” as it weighed the merger. The report said students, faculty and staff members expressed concern with losing each college’s unique identity as merger talks progressed. Paul Porter, a CFANS agronomy and plant genetics professor, said the merger’s size presented a challenge in itself. MFU participated in stakeholder meetings during the process of looking at merger.

House releases guidance on biofuels

The Minnesota House of Representatives Research has released a short subject publication entitled “Biofuel use mandates”, check it out here: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/ss/ssbiofuel.pdf , MFU policy supports current and pending biofuel mandates in Minnesota.

Legislative session nearing, lobby day March 18

MFU is busy gearing up for legislative session which begins late this year on Tuesday Feb. 25th.  MFU has been busy already attending pre-session hearings and meeting with key legislators about MFU priorities. MFU has scheduled our lobby day for Tuesday March 18th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Check recent issues of Minnesota Agriculture for more information or contact me for more information.

Tax issues big on agenda

Some of MFU’s biggest legislative priorities this year include addressing tax issues including repeal of farm equipment repair taxes, gift tax, and warehouse tax. In addition MFU is working on property tax issues. A lot will depend on the next budget forecast which is due at the end of this month; a robust forecast like the last one in early December should mean good news for those issues. MFU urges members to contact their legislators if they haven’t on these issues especially the farm equipment repair piece.

Farmers Market Rules

Another issue MFU is looking at for the legislative session includes farmer’s markets rules and regulations. Farmers markets face regulation and rules from various units of government and MFU will be seeking legislation that clarifies rules and allows for demonstrating and sampling products. Members who have questions about this should contact me.

Wolf hunting

This past month the House Environment Policy Committee held an informational hearing on the DNR wolf management program. MFU submitted a letter to the committee prior to the hearing supporting the current wolf hunting and trapping season. Rep. Jason Isaacson (DFL-Shoreview) and Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center) are authors of bills to repeal hunting and trapping season. Support for the season was among the top resolutions sent in by MFU county units at this year’s county conventions.

Industrial Hemp

MFU is seeing some renewed interested around the Capitol regarding legislation to move toward legalizing Industrial Hemp cultivation in Minnesota. The recently passed farm bill included language which allows hemp cultivation by higher educational institutions in states that have approved hemp production. Industrial hemp cultivation is legal in Colorado, Oregon, California, Kentucky, Vermont, Montana, West Virginia, North Dakota and Maine. MFU policy has long supported Industrial hemp cultivation. Reps. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls.), Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), and Sen. Scott Dibble are authors of current hemp legislation.

Pollinators

MFU is also working on the issue of pollinators and habitat. This past year, MFU has seen a lot of interest from both parties at the Capitol in looking at this very important issue on ensuring Minnesota has the necessary habitat and protections in place to have healthy and abundant pollinators. MDA has good information on their work here: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/protecting/bmps/pollinators.aspx

Conservation Easements

MFU is also working on an issue that passed in the legislature last year dealing with tax assessments of conservation easements.  Ordinarily, assessors are expected to consider all things that affect market value when completing their assessment. However, Minnesota Statute 273.117 now specifies that assessors must not reduce the value of property because of a conservation easement, except for:

• Conservation restrictions or easements that cover riparian buffers along lakes, rivers, and streams that are used for water quantity or quality control.

• Easements in a county that has adopted, by referendum, a program to protect farmland and natural areas since 1999. (Dakota County is the only one to do so.)

Some legislators are interested in repealing this language saying it is a disincentive to enroll in conservation programs, others say this is good because it prevents people from buying parcels, taking it out of farm production and reducing taxes thus raising others taxes.  MFU will discuss at County President board meeting on Feb. 22, members who have comments about this should contact me.

That is all for now, as usual questions, comments and complaints to me!

Thom Petersen, Director of Gov’t Relations, MN Farmers Union


Notes from the MN Farmers Union

 

Notes from the Minnesota Farmers Union Thursday January 16th, 2014

 

 

 

Beef Check-off vote deadline is Friday

 

 

 

The Minnesota Beef Research and Promotion Council (MBRPC) is proposing a voluntary beef check-off price increase of $1.00 per head. The current $1.00 per head check-off is split evenly between state and national beef promotion councils.  The proposed increase would stay with the Minnesota Beef Council and would be used for promotion efforts in Minnesota only. “Minnesota Farmers Union encourages all farmers and ranchers to vote, and to make sure their voice is heard,” said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President. Minnesota farmers and rancher selling their livestock in Minnesota would be eligible to receive a refund of the automatic $1.00 per head increase if the referendum passes and they request it after the sale of their cattle. Producers will have a chance to review the proposal and share their feedback before the February, 2014 mail ballot election. To ensure producers are on the list to receive a ballot by mail, they can request one in three ways.

 

  • www.mda.state.mn.us/ballots;
  • call the Minnesota Department of Agriculture at 651-201-6013; or
  • call the Minnesota Beef Research and Promotion Council at 952-854-6980.

 

 

 

Individuals must make the request by Friday, January 17, 2014.

 

 

 

2014 is Int’l year of Family Farmer

 

 

 

Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) is pleased the United Nations declared 2014 as the International Year of the Family Farmer.  “As a family farmer, I am excited that we will be celebrating the benefits and importance of family farmers throughout the year, as we celebrate the International Year of the Family Farmer,” said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union.

 

Contributions from family farmers:

 

  • 16 million jobs are created by agriculture in the United States;
  • a farm food dollar is turned over seven times in our economy;
  • one American farmer feeds 155 people;
  • 20 percent of Minnesota’s economy is farm related; and
  • one of five jobs in Minnesota are connected to agriculture.

 

 

 

“Farming drives our state and nation. I am proud of our history as farmers and proud to represent family farmers who have the ability to provide food, fuel, and fiber for the world” said Peterson.

 

For more information on International Year of the Family Farmer, www.yearoffamilyfarming.com, or www.fao.org/family-farming-2014

 

 

 

Legislative session approaching

 

 

 

MFU has been busy this past week working on getting ready for the legislative session. Next week committees will hold earing on issues including round-up ready resistance and wolf hunting. Among the top issues from MFU will be repeal of business to business sales taxes including the new expansion of the sales tax to farm equipment repair. Other top issues include support for Agri-tourism, clarifying Farmers Market rules, and support for biofuels.  MFU has scheduled our lobby day at the Capitol for March 18th, please watch for more information.

 

 

 

Dept. of Commerce releases energy future study

 

 

 

The Minnesota Dept. of Commerce has released the “Scoping an Energy Future Study for Minnesota” which develops a scope for a study of how Minnesota can achieve a sustainable energy system that does not rely on fossil fuels. The report identifies potential approaches and considerations to assess cross-sector opportunities in electrical, transportation, thermal, industrial, and agricultural sectors.  Check it out here: http://mn.gov/commerce/energy/images/MNEnergyFutureStudyScopingReport_140102.pdf

 

 

 

Sustainable Ag Grant deadline approaching!

 

 

 

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant deadline is fast approaching!   Grant applications are due on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4pm. For more information about the Program go to: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/en/grants/grants/demogrant.aspx

 

 

 

NFU opposed to Fast-Track Trade Authority

 

 

 

NFU President Roger Johnson voiced opposition today to a bill, introduced last week by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., that would allow trade agreements to move through Congress with limited debate and without amendments. “We oppose fast-track negotiating authority for the president,” said Johnson. “Trade agreements must be a fair deal for all parties – farmers, workers, and consumers, both in the United States and abroad. Previous trade deals haven’t lived up to this standard, so Congress should have full opportunity to review and amend provisions of a trade agreement, consistent with the U.S. Constitution.” If passed by Congress, the Baucus-Camp bill would grant the president the authority to negotiate all terms of trade deals and would pave the way for a fast conclusion and approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, without substantial Congressional oversight. “It is imperative for our negotiators to focus on the huge U.S. trade deficit,” said Johnson. “Just increasing exports, while increasing imports at even faster rates, is a recipe for continued and even larger trade deficits, which have a negative effect on U.S. growth, jobs and our standard of living. Currency manipulation must be effectively dealt with, or any minor advantages gained in other parts of the agreements can be easily and rapidly outweighed by manipulated currency values.”

 

 

 

Franken sends letter of Fast-Track

 

 

 

Senator Al Franken and a number of his colleagues have sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid regarding Fast Track authority.  In the letter the Senator lays out a number of serious concerns, including timing and and impact of the Fast Track legislation and how it relates to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

 

 

 

RFS Update

 

 

 

NFU submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently expressing deep concern with EPA’s proposed 2014 volumes for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). EPA’s proposal reduces overall volumes by 16 percent. This is the first time in the program’s history that EPA has reduced overall targets. “EPA’s proposal is a big step backward in the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ending our reliance on foreign oil, and giving consumers a choice at the pump,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The RFS is a principle driver of the cellulosic and advanced biofuels industry. This proposal would strand billions of dollars of investment in the next generation of biofuels and send those investment dollars overseas.” Under section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to set the renewable fuel targets for the following year. Click here to view NFU’s comments. MFU will submit comments next week and encourages members to submit their own comments. The deadline to submit comments is January 28, 2014. NFU is a member of Fuels America, a coalition committed to protecting the RFS. Comments can be submitted through the Fuels America website at the following link: http://www.fuelsamerica.org/page/s/take-a-stand-for-lower-gas-prices. The official notice in the Federal Register can be found here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-11-29/pdf/2013-28155.pdf

 

 

 

Farm bill

 

 

 

Farmers Union continues to advocate for passage of a new farm bill.  The current farm bill has been allowed to expire twice and farmers, ranchers, fishermen and rural Americans deserve the certainty of a five-year farm bill. Farmers Union has been strongly objecting to any legislative change made to Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) in the farm bill conference, working to support the Dairy provision supported by Rep. Peterson, supporting payment limits, and inclusion of strong energy and organic titles as well as a strong disaster program. MFU will continue to update members as developments happen.

 

 

 

COOL arguments heard

 

 

 

NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement following the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit hearing arguments in the ongoing Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) lawsuit in which NFU is an intervener: “Today’s argument presents to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit the question of whether the U.S. District Court’s denial of the preliminary injunction on the implementation of the May 2013 revised regulations on COOL on meat products should be upheld. The May decision was a victory for supporters of COOL. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new COOL rules brought the United States into compliance with the World Trade Organization.

 

“While the packer-producer groups and foreign competitors have sought to limit the consumer’s ability to know the origins of their food, NFU and our allies strongly supported the government position that a preliminary injunction wasn’t appropriate. “We are hopeful that the D.C. Circuit’s decision will uphold the district court’s denial of the preliminary injunction.”

 

 

 

MFU members, staff attend Women’s Conference

 

 

 

MFU staff Amanda Rosendahl and Carol Johnson along with members Jen Gibson and Linda Larson recently attended NFU’s 2014 Women’s Conference in Clearwater Beach, Fla. This conference for farm and rural women is based on the well-respected Annie's Project education program. The event was held Jan. 11-14, 2014, and provided participants with tools and information to confidently manage risks in their farm or ranch operations and develop leadership skills. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden was a keynote speaker at the event. A variety of trained instructors will taught family farm finances, budgeting and cash flow, cooperatives, marketing, farm transfer and estate planning, business planning, leadership assessment and skills, generational issues, and action planning. Attendees learned about skills for women leading in agriculture and have peer-to-peer networking opportunities.  Annie's Project also helps women find new ways to balance the demands of family, community and professionalism within the agricultural community. The conference was sponsored by Farm Credit, American Farmland Trust, CoBank, FUI Foundation and the NFU Foundation.

 

 

 

Minnesota Counties declared disaster

 

 

 

From USDA: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated three counties in Minnesota as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by drought conditions and lack of moisture that occurred Sept. 1 – Nov. 15, 2013.  The counties are:

 


 

 

Kanabec

Morrison

Pine

 


 

 

Our hearts go out to those Minnesota farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling Minnesota producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.” Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Minnesota also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. Those counties are:

 


 

 

Aitkin

Carlton

Chisago

Isanti

Benton

Cass

Crow Wing

Mille Lacs

Stearns

Todd

   

 


 

 

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Wisconsin also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

 

 

 

MDA Pollinator report

 

 

 

A new report from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) examines challenges to Minnesota pollinator populations and ways to enhance their habitat. The 2013 legislature directed the MDA to propose ways to create and enhance habit for insect pollinators (bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, and other insects), and to collaborate with other state agencies in preparing a report on pollinators. Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson submitted the report yesterday to state legislative agricultural and natural resources committees. The report outlines a variety of approaches to the creation of a “pollinator bank,” and calls for legislative support for a new University of Minnesota academic position to coordinate statewide pollinator protection activities. The report notes that many interacting factors affect pollinator populations including pathogens and parasites, pesticides, poor nutrition due to loss of foraging and nesting habitat, fewer beekeepers, changes in land use, and changes in local weather or climate. Honey bee pollination of U.S. crops is valued at $15-18 billion while pollination by native bees is valued at $3 billion. The legislature also asked that the MDA include in the report a process for reviewing neonicotinoid pesticides registered in the state. These pesticides, which have multiple homes, institutional and agricultural uses, including the control of the emerald ash borer, are implicated as a risk factor in the health of pollinator populations. The MDA has begun the review of these pesticides and in the next few months will be releasing a draft scoping document for public comment. The MDA report on pollinators was done in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Department of Transportation, and the state Pollution Control Agency. Other collaborators included the University of Minnesota, the Board of Soil and Water Resources, and local representatives of U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs.

 

The report on pollinators can be viewed on the MDA website at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/en/protecting/bmps/pollinators.aspx.

 

 

 

House Bills introduced:

 

 

 

This week the Minnesota House pre-filed about 300 bills for the legislative session which begins Feb. 25th, here is a look at some of the ones that are of interest to agriculture:

 

 

 

Petersburg introduced: H. F. 1883, A bill for an act relating to taxation; property; providing for a limited market value credit for agricultural land; appropriating money; amending Minnesota Statutes 2012, sections 273.1231, subdivision 6; 273.1393; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 273.

 

 

 

Drazkowski introduced: H. F. 1909, A bill for an act relating to taxation; repealing the gift tax; repealing certain business-to-business taxes; rescinding the increase in the wheelage tax; reinstating valuation reductions for conservation easements; rescinding authority for school boards to authorize referendum levies; repealing the student achievement levy; reverting to prior animal waste technician fee and licensing requirements;

 

 

 

McNamar; Persell; Sawatzky; Falk; Faust; Radinovich; Ward, J.E.; Johnson, C.; Savick and Lien introduced: H. F. 1950, A bill for an act relating to sales and use tax; repealing the tax on labor for farm equipment repair services; amending Minnesota Statutes 2013 Supplement, section 297A.61, subdivision 3.

 

 

 

Erickson, R. introduced: H. F. 2021, A bill for an act relating to natural resources; modifying wetlands provisions; requiring rulemaking; amending Minnesota Statutes 2012, sections 103G.005, subdivision 10e; 103G.222, subdivision 3; 103G.2241, subdivision 9; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 103G.

 

 

 

Hamilton introduced:H. F. 2105, A bill for an act relating to taxation; sales and use; repealing the tax on repairing and maintaining commercial and industrial machinery and equipment; amending Minnesota Statutes 2013 Supplement, section 297A.61, subdivision 3.

 

 

 

Lenczewski introduced:H. F. 2108, A bill for an act relating to taxation; unifying the estate and gift taxes; modifying base, rate, administrative, and procedural provisions of the taxes; imposing penalties; amending Minnesota Statutes 2012.

 

 

 

Clark and Kahn introduced: H. F. 2110, A bill for an act relating to sustainable agriculture; modifying certain programs and grants; amending Minnesota Statutes 2012, sections 17.115, subdivisions 2, 3; 17.116; 17.1161.

 

 

 

Clark; Dehn, R., and Kahn introduced: H. F. 2111, A bill for an act relating to state government; adding urban agriculture development zones in land use planning; amending Minnesota Statutes 2012, section 473.859, subdivisions 1, 2, 5.

 

 

 

F. B. Daniel passes away

 

 

 

F.B Daniel, long-time Farmers Union employee and advocate has recently died.  He was a field representative and manager of member relations for Farmers Union Central Exchange, executive director for Iowa Farmers Union and staff of Minnesota Farmers Union for 14 years. The book, More Than a Farm Organization, Farmers Union in Minnesota, was a labor of love for F.B., and by all accounts, would not have been written if it wasn’t for F.B.’s perseverance and dedication.  In the book, former MFU & National Farmers Union President Cy Carpenter stated, “ In the history of Farmers Union and service to farm families and Cooperatives, no one has served with more commitment and personal contribution than F.B. Daniel… he is a model…” MFU President Doug Peterson stated, "Thank you F.B. for your tireless work for family farmers and cooperatives everywhere. We thank you for your efforts and passion and are sad to see you go. You will be missed."

 

 

 

That is all for now as usual, questions, comments and complaints to me!

 

 

 

Thom Petersen, Director of Government Relations, MN Farmers Union