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RFA funding, renewable energy makes legislative progress

By Janet Kubat Willette

jkubat@agrinews.com

ST. PAUL — As legislators recessed for Easter, a couple of legislative issues important to agriculture have already cleared the governor’s desk.

Funding for the Rural Finance Authority, which ran out of money to make some loans last year, received a $30 million boost. A renewable energy standard that increases the percentage of the state’s electricity that comes from renewable sources to 25 percent by 2025 passed.

But a couple other high-profile issues, including the dairy investment tax credit, remain in legislative limbo.

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The tax credit is not included in the omnibus tax bill in the Senate and the House hasn’t passed their bill yet, said Bob Lefebvre, executive director of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association.

"Indications are that it will be included in that, however, we can’t ever be too sure," Lefebvre said. Gov. Tim Pawlenty supports the dairy investment tax credit.

It’s the third year Minnesota Milk has worked to pass the dairy tax credit. The last two years it was in both the House and Senate bills, but it wasn’t included in the bill that emerged from conference committee, Lefebvre said.

Minnesota Farm Bureau is watching issues related to property taxes, said public policy director Chris Radatz.

Both the House and Senate have proposals that would reduce class rates for the first tier of homestead agricultural land, Radatz said. The proposal would drop the class rate on the first $690,000 of homestead ag property from 0.55 to 0.5. The proposal is in the Senate bill, which has already passed, and also in the House bill, which hasn’t passed.

Minnesota Farmers Union is watching a proposal that will allow farmers to use depreciation expense in determining MinnesotaCare income eligibility. The proposal is in both Senate and House omnibus bills.

Its prospect of passing is extremely good at this point, said Thom Petersen, MFU director of government relations.

Sustainable and organic agriculture funding is also moving forward, said Paul Sobocinski, who farms near Wabasso and works on federal and state policy issues for Land Stewardship Project.

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