Much to celebrate at Minnesota’s Farmfest
Minnesota’s Farmfest showcases the best and brightest of our state’s farming industry, with vendors, forums, and special guests touting all that Minnesota’s farmers have to offer. This year, in addition to taking in the festivities, I am pleased to celebrate this year’s legislative successes we implemented bolstering Minnesota’s farmers.
This year at the Minnesota Legislature, we passed a bipartisan budget that benefits all the varied aspects of our state’s farming industry, much of which will be represented at Farmfest this week. We funded new and emerging innovations that will benefit our agriculture and food economies, while also addressing the issues our farming communities are currently facing. The investments protect agriculture and food production, encourage innovation, deliver products to more people, and keep Minnesota at the forefront of the industry.
Farmers are facing many issues including unpredictable and damaging weather, uncertainties around global trade, and challenges around sustained low prices for their efforts. The lack of accessible mental health care and assistance for our rural communities compounds the issues many of our farmers are currently facing. Our work this year included a multi-pronged solution that invests in rural mental health by providing no-cost access to a second mental health therapist, additional staffers for the Minnesota Farm Advocates program, and funds mental health awareness programming at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
As Minnesota’s family farms continue to struggle in the midst of a trade war, our budget established mutually beneficial markets by providing fresh produce to Minnesota’s students through the Farm to School program, as well as improving the ability for smaller food retailers to carry nutritious produce in underserved communities. Increased funding in our trade and marketing efforts at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will also be put to good use selling the products of our farmers both at home and abroad.
The increase of funds in Ag Emergency Preparedness ensures the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is able to respond swiftly and effectively in the event of an outbreak of African Swine Fever, avian flu, or other diseases that would negatively impact our farms.
Agriculture saw benefits in many of our budget bills, and the tax bill is no exception. We cut farmers' property taxes by boosting the Agricultural School Bond credit from 40 percent to 70 percent. In conforming to federal tax law, Minnesota will now have the expansion of allowances for section 179 starting in this taxable year. This allows small to mid-sized businesses, including farmers, to deduct expenses up to $1 million for qualifying equipment purchases in the first year the equipment is used. We also updated the agriculture homestead eligibility rules. The changes included in the tax bill ensure families who structure their farm as a dual entity still qualify for the homestead tax credit. A significant increase in aid to local and county governments will benefit our farm families, too.
It’s my hope the investments made this year not only strengthen Minnesota’s current farmers, but invigorates a new generation of farmers for years to come. Our efforts to support beginning, urban, and minority farmers as they become established in the Minnesota agricultural economy will hopefully lead to more Minnesotans who will experience the activities of Farmfest!
Representative Jeanne Poppe (DFL - Austin) is the Chair of the Minnesota House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division.