ND Legislature takes on trespassing, tax exemptions, grain buyers
It's hard to believe the 2019 legislative session is in full swing. This will be my 12th legislative session serving District 29 in the North Dakota Legislature.
I was first elected in 1992 at the age of 34. My son Ryan, who today is one of my farming partners and serves on the North Dakota Corn Growers Association board, was in kindergarten at the time. Throughout the years, my purpose and motivation for serving has remained the same — I have a passion for North Dakota agriculture.
I love my job as a fourth generation American and North Dakota farmer and always look forward to going to work on the farm. While I strive to represent all my constituents, I feel my contribution at the table of North Dakota policy development is my years of practical experience as a North Dakota farmer! More common sense and experienced farmer voices are needed when our state and local governments set policy.
I will touch on a couple of the agriculture issues facing us this session, starting with Senate Bill 2360. This bill addresses the farm home exemption from property taxes and defines the qualifications of a farmer who would qualify for this by adopting the IRS definition of a farmer. We have heard many frustrations with this issue from one jurisdiction to another.
The bill makes three significant qualification changes. First, it changes the required amount of income from farming to qualify for the exemption from 50 percent of net income to 66 percent of gross income. This prevents farmers who had a bad farm year from losing their farm home exemption because their net income from farming is less than 50 percent of total income. Second, it changes the look back from three years to two years. Finally, it deletes the off-farm income test. I believe this bill will provide some clarity to who qualifies for a farm home exemption.
Another significant bill is Senate Bill 2315. This bill would consider all private property as posted "no trespassing." While sportsmen claim this will damage our hunting heritage, supporters say it is a private property rights bill arguing that hunting is a privilege, not a right.
There is a possible compromise in the works that would designate all land as posted with an exemption for hunting season. During hunting season, posting would remain as it is today with an option of posting land online once an appropriate program is designed. This would put some teeth into trespassing laws when it comes to situations like the Dakota Access Pipeline protest.
Another important bill is Senate Bill 2346. This bill addresses the licensing of grain buyers and public warehouses. Given the highly publicized grain buyer's insolvency and the resulting damage to the farmers who sold to him, our system of licensing grain buyers is under question. This bill gives more authority to the Public Service Commission to request pertinent financial information when licensing, renewing licenses and conducting investigations of a licensed buyer. This is in addition to the current bonding requirements.
We do not want to overreact because of one situation, but it does cause one to review our system of grain buyers licensing. The bill also considers broadening coverage of the indemnity fund to all claimants who are hurt in an insolvency. It will never make anyone whole but it will bring some relief.
There are so many more bills addressing agricultural issues in the Legislature, so I will provide more reports as we continue. If you have questions or thoughts on any bills you are following, let me know. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and stay warm!
Wanzek is a Republican representing District 29 in the North Dakota Senate and farms near Jamestown, N.D.