During a comprehensive discussion and debate on November 20, voting delegates at the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation’s (MFBF) 96th Annual Meeting voted on and adopted policy positions for 2015. Based on those actions, the MFBF Board of Directors identified five major focus areas that will serve as the roadmap for public policy: taxes, transportation, water, education and agricultural practices.
Earlier this year, MFBF’s Board of Directors launched a special task force to examine agricultural property taxes, seeking to not only better understand the concerns, but also to identify potential solutions. The voting delegates addressed several of the ideas surfaced by the property tax task force and a plan is being developed aimed at resolving challenges agricultural property tax payers are facing.
Additional tax concerns involve estate taxes and the complications these cause in passing the farm to the next generation.
MFBF will focus on a variety of transportation-related issues, including the infrastructure of rural roads and bridges. In addition, sufficient and timely rail service for moving agricultural commodities to market in an affordable manner has plagued farmers and ranchers reliant on rail transportation for most of 2014.
Due to competition for an adequate place in an over-burdened freight load, oil shipments seemingly dominate the available rail service capacity. Voting delegates approved policy in support of moving forward with the permitting required to use pipelines for transporting oil.
Delegates adopted policy in opposition to the high-speed, passenger-only Zip Rail proposal to connect an undetermined location in the Rochester area with an undetermined location in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Beyond the impact on the landscape which would divide property along the route, the incredible costs associated with a single-purpose rail and undetailed costs-benefit evaluation make this transportation project unjustifiable.
Various government agencies with authority over water quality and water quantity are in the process of adjusting and expanding their controlling regulations, impacting farmers and ranchers. The massive water diversion and water retention management plans taking shape in Fargo, North Dakota and the Red River Valley region are oriented to impact farmers and their property.
MFBF is involved and will continue to be engaged in evaluating proposed regulatory ideas and will participate in the public comment processes associated with the regulation development system.
MFBF will focus on adequate funding and providing appropriate levels of attention to agricultural education. Over the past several years, the shortage of qualified agricultural educators is impacting high school vocational education programs and co-curricular activities like FFA. Voting delegates expressed their support for alternative solutions including potential expansion of routes to obtain an agricultural education licensure.
Beyond the high school agricultural classroom, MFBF will be placing a priority on financial and collegiate administration support for farm business management programs.
Agricultural Production Practices
From energy to labor, farmers need adequate, reliable and affordable options to accomplish essential farming activities, achieve profitable outcomes and remain sustainable. Likewise, in meeting stewardship responsibilities, farm practices require flexibility for site-specific circumstances as opposed to one-size fits all regulatory mandates. Voting delegates supported maintaining the ability to make effective use of biotechnology and other production inputs.
Livestock farms and ranches are important to Minnesota’s economy. Opportunities for them to expand and prosper need due consideration.