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Taxes, wind rights top topics with farmers

ST. PAUL — Thom Petersen gave a mini lecture to Farmers Union members who gathered at the capitol for the organization’s annual lobby day on Feb. 15.

It’s very important to talk about property taxes, said Petersen, MFU’s government relations director. Some have told him their property taxes have went up 40 percent to 50 percent.

Farmers Union supports borrowing for the Rural Finance Authority and supports the farm business management program. The organization is also supporting a bill that terminates wind easements after seven years if a project isn’t in development.

Petersen told members to steer clear of issues they didn’t feel comfortable talking about and to sport their sticker. That sticker makes an impression, he said.

He thanked members for coming, saying he can’t get to every lawmaker so it helps to have members come visit with their legislators. It also helps to put Farmers Union materials in their hands.

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Petersen told them of a couple hearings they may find interesting, told them where to find lunch and with that, they were off.

One group went to visit with Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, chairman of the Senate agriculture committee.

Magnus said he supports extension of the seven-year easement limit for wind rights. The current law is set to expire on June 30. It states that easements expire if a project isn’t under development in seven years.

Jerome Graff of Brown County spoke in support of the farm business management program. He is involved in the program and said it helps him keep records. Paying for the entire cost of the program would be cost-prohibitive, he said. Currently, students enrolled in farm business management pay tuition based upon how many credits they’re taking.

Magnus agreed that it’s vital to have funding for agricultural education. He asks his urban colleagues to realize how valuable agriculture is, but all they’re hearing is how farmers are making money.

Trevor Jensen from Steele County said Farmers Union supports local control and opposes a proposed constitutional amendment that would require a 3/5ths vote to pass tax increases.

They talked about bonding for the Rural Finance Authority. Farmers Union supports a bonding request for $33 million. The money is loaned out to eligible farmers in partnership with lenders and then repaid.

They also talked about property taxes and moratoriums.

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Later in the day, a group of five visited Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.

Property taxes was the first issue on the table. Rosen said the market value credit isn’t coming back because it wasn’t fully funded when it existed. Property taxes are a huge issue, she said.

Rosen voiced support for the RFA and agricultural education, giving a nod to the two college students in the group.

She said legislators need to be careful with constitutional amendments as they don’t want to tie the hands of future legislators.

"It is very serious when you mess with the Constitution … people have the right to vote also," she said.

Rosen is a supporter of the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment. It is just common sense, she said.

Rosen is also chief author of a Vikings stadium bill. She said a deal is close. The stadium will have a fixed roof and the state share will be paid for through charitable gambling.

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