State and Federal Advocacy
A key function of AgriGrowth’s mission is to advocate for a positive business climate for Minnesota’s food and agriculture sector. During each legislative session and throughout the year, AgriGrowth actively represents the interests of our members with the Minnesota legislature, Governor’s office, and state agency officials.
AgriGrowth’s state public policy priorities are generated from AgriGrowth member interests and concerns identified through meeting with individual members, four regional meetings, an annual member survey, and a public policy advisory committee. AgriGrowth’s public priority list does not reflect the entire scope of state public policy issues AgriGrowth engages with throughout the year, but highlights key areas of interest/concern to our organization.
State Public Policy Priorities 2019
Clean water is a shared value and vital to every community in Minnesota. Our farmers and agribusinesses understand this and are at the forefront of researching, developing, testing, and adopting best management practices for improving water quality. We are committed to partnering with policymakers and state government agencies to take some common-sense steps to improve water quality in Minnesota.
AgriGrowth believes that addressing and solving water quality issues is best achieved when farmers are engaged by government agencies rather than being subject to one-size-fits-all solutions developed at the Capitol in St. Paul. Every water quality challenge is unique, and solutions should be adopted that take into consideration the efforts of commodity organizations, the University of Minnesota, and state agencies. AgriGrowth believes that when all of these groups work in collaboration using sound science and proven methods, we can both keep our shared waters clean and increase agricultural productivity.
The Legacy Amendment, which created the Clear Water Fund, was passed by voters more than ten years ago. AgriGrowth supports increasing the dedicated funding toward local, farmer-engaged efforts that will help accelerate the adoption of nutrient management and conservation practices. These dollars should be prioritized toward on-the-ground projects including projects identified by farmer led councils that have meaningful impact on improving water quality and looks for ways to leverage federal conservation dollars.
Environmental and Regulatory Reform
The Walz administration has signaled their interest in improving/refining the permitting processes in Minnesota. Minnesota’s agribusinesses and farmers would like to contribute to a discussion on how to improve the permitting processes to ensure they work for agribusinesses while providing necessary protections to our environment. AgriGrowth supports efforts by state agencies that increase certainty in permitting timelines and reduce the costs to projects which are a deterrent to new investments and jobs. Additionally, AgriGrowth supports environmental agencies operating within the authority granted by the legislature, rather than acting unilaterally and issuing rules or taking actions not prescribed in law.
Access to Technology That Enhances Productivity
Minnesota farmers need access to science-based technology and tools that can enhance productivity, protect our natural resources and support sound animal care practices. AgriGrowth opposes state legislation or agency action which ban or impose unreasonable restrictions on the use of federally-approved crop protection or animal care products. Further, AgriGrowth supports federal and state laws superseding a patchwork of local laws and ordinances which restrict the use of certain seed technology or ag input products.
Workforce Development and Labor Availability
Minnesota’s food and ag sectors have long experienced a labor shortage. With an economy near full-employment, farmers and producers are competing against other states and industries for part-time, full-time, and seasonal employees. AgriGrowth is strongly supportive of initiatives that promote public/private partnerships working with higher education institutions and community colleges to help ensure that students are better prepared for careers in food production and agriculture such as farm business management, food science technology, and soil science.
AgriGrowth also strongly supports efforts to promote vocational and technical educational opportunities to high school students. Such schools offer students who cannot afford or do not wish to attend a four-year university with opportunities to learn valuable skills and knowledge to begin meaningful and productive careers in the state’s robust food and agricultural economy.
Last year the Minnesota legislature was unable to reach an agreement with the Governor Dayton on a tax conformity package. Unfortunately, this leaves many Minnesota farmers, businesses, and individuals with tax uncertainty as we approach filing season. AgriGrowth asks that Governor Walz and the legislature come to an agreement on retroactive tax conformity which adopts increased capital equipment expensing equal to the federal level, bonus depreciation, and reduced tax rates for our farms and businesses.
AgriGrowth also requests that the following provisions be included in any tax conformity legislation:
- A tax credit for farm land removed from production in order to comply with the state buffer law passed in 2015.
- A clarification that local units of government do not possess the authority to tax certain food and beverage packaging differently from others. This provision was carried by both the House and Senate in the 2018 tax conformity bills which were ultimately vetoed
- A homestead classification provision which makes it easier for farms to be passed on to other family members in a manner that does not increase the recipients tax burden. This was also included in both of the vetoed tax bills at the end of the 2018 legislative session.
Minnesota farmers and food producers are top in their class. However, both understand that without a reliable and extensive multi-modal transportation system that products will have a harder time getting to market. In any discussion or consideration of new gas taxes, AgriGrowth hopes that these sources of revenue are dedicated equitably across the state. While the metro area experiences traffic congestion and challenges that Greater Minnesota does not, our rural areas grow the food, fuel and fiber that need to be transported across long distances in order to sustain a growing worldwide population.
Other Challenges to our Rural Communities
While not exclusive to Greater Minnesota, childcare and healthcare affordability and availability are serious issues that hit rural communities hard. If Minnesota is to maintain its position as a premier ag and food production state, we must confront and develop solutions to these issues so these communities remain strong. AgriGrowth supports legislative and agency efforts which would increase access and lower healthcare costs. Additionally, AgriGrowth supports government efforts to increase the number of childcare providers, such as reducing burdensome regulations on providers or introducing meaningful incentives to move the needle toward lower-cost childcare.
In 2015, AgriGrowth along with other ag groups and the University of Minnesota, lobbied for funding to create the Agricultural Research, Education, Extension and Technology Transfer Program (AGREETT). AgriGrowth strongly supports the continuation of the $5M dollar annual investment, and suggests the legislature gives strong consideration to increasing
Federal Public Policy Priorities 2019
U.S. Trade Agreements
A key to the long-term competitiveness and growth for Minnesota (and U.S.) agriculture is opening new markets and reducing barriers to the export of U.S. food and agricultural products. Minnesota currently ranks as the 4th largest agricultural exporting state in the U.S., accounting for one-third of Minnesota’s total agricultural sales. An estimated 60,000 Minnesota jobs are tied directly or indirectly to agricultural exports. In addition, processed foods now account for more than fifty percent of total U.S. food and agricultural exports. We strongly encourage the federal government to improve our trade relations and expand exports, rather than cause our partners to seek alternative markets.
AgriGrowth applauds the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and urges Congress to quickly approve the new accord so growers and producers will have certainty that their products will resume moving to these critical markets in a timely fashion. We strongly encourage the Administration to immediately remove the tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports and press those governments to remove their retaliatory tariffs on American exports of agricultural and food products.
We encourage the Administration to remain engaged with China in an effort to resolve on-going trade disputes, reduce recently-applied tariffs on American agricultural and food products, and put American agriculture back on a path to supply that nation with needed food, feed, fiber and energy. A trade war with China only helps our competitors gain new market access at the expense of American agriculture. In 2017, the U.S. exported more than $23 billion dollars in agricultural exports to China, alone.
Finally, AgriGrowth strongly urges the U.S. government to work aggressively to negotiate new trade agreements, including with the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Japan, that allow Minnesota agriculture to help feed the 95 percent of the world’s population that lives outside U.S. borders.
Comprehensive immigration reform is a phrase used often by policymakers that has vastly different meanings. AgriGrowth encourages the Minnesota congressional delegation to support immigration policies that help address the workforce needs of Minnesota farmers and food producers, while also recognizing the positive contributions that these individuals make to their communities. Without a significant increase in net migration to Minnesota, the state’s labor force will grow slower than it has in the past. This means that farmers and businesses will have an increasingly difficult time finding hard-working, skilled employees that are required to sustain a robust economy.
The existing H-2A program for seasonal agricultural workers is insufficient. An entirely new program reflective of today’s agriculture economy is necessary to help provide employers with greater access to immigrant workers for both seasonal and year-round positions. This new program should provide greater certainty to workers and employers alike. These workers are often paid a higher wage than the federal minimum, yet farmers face uncertainty within the current program due to various barriers, delays and regulations.
The lack of access to affordable health insurance is a top issue amongst farmers nationwide. In many cases, the rising costs of health care have supplanted concerns over access to credit, capital, or land. According to recent studies, almost half of all farmers and ranchers indicated they were concerned they would have to sell some or all of their farm to cover health related costs. Additionally, with an average age of 58, farmers are vulnerable to higher health insurance premiums.
AgriGrowth encourages the Administration and Congress to consider the interests and concerns of U.S. farmers in any discussion or crafting of health care policy. The farming population is shrinking and getting older, and the federal government needs to ensure that young and beginning farmers are not deterred from careers in food and agriculture by the rising costs of health care.
Minnesota’s agriculture and food sector is committed to the adoption of new best practices and innovative technology that help protect the natural resources of our state and ensure a safe food supply. In recent years, a proliferation of new federal rules and requirements have created uncertainty and added costs to farms, agribusinesses, and food companies.
AgriGrowth applauds the recently proposed revisions to the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, originally proposed and enacted in 2015. This effort by the Trump Administration to streamline and reduce the number of costly and duplicative regulations to landowners by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers is a good start, and AgriGrowth looks forward to this process moving forward.
Additionally, AgriGrowth is encouraged by federal efforts to review hours-of-service regulations for truck drivers. Our livestock industries require flexibility in driving time to protect the welfare of animals in their care. The transport of livestock poses significantly different challenges than those faced by the rest of the trucking industry, and federal recognition of these challenges would be welcomed.
Minnesota’s agriculture sector relies on many forms of transportation. We depend upon our nation’s highways, roads and bridges, as well as rail and waterways not only to move products to markets here and abroad, but also to transport necessary inputs to our farms. Therefore, AgriGrowth is strongly supportive of federal efforts to make new investments in our nation’s transportation infrastructure, such as modernization of the aging Mississippi River locks and dams system, as well as our nation’s highway system
To learn more about AgriGrowth’s public policy work, please contact our Director of Government and Member Relations, Gary Kay at 651-292-3912; firstname.lastname@example.org.