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home : columnists : don wick August 23, 2017

6/12/2017 4:28:00 PM
Dayton signs 10 budget bills

Don Wick

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed 10 budget bills totaling $46 billion for the next two years. At the last minute, there was some back-and-forth over the tax bill, but Dayton ultimately signed the legislation. The tax bill includes an increase in the estate tax exemption from $1.8 million this year to $3 million in 2020. Dayton was opposed to this exemption, downplaying its impact on farmers and small business owners. "There's already a $5 billion exemption, which conforms to the federal exemption for farms and family owned businesses." Dayton acknowledged there are some positive aspects to the tax bill. "The agriculture property tax relief for farmers is very important. I support that. There are lots of good things happening there, but they went overboard."

Support for young/beginning farmers
The Minnesota tax bill included a first-of-its-kind tax credit for beginning farmers. This bill, which was signed by Governor Mark Dayton, supports the transition of land to young and beginning farmers. Central Minnesota Young Farmers Coalition co-founder Matthew Fitzgerald said this is the first bill to include an incentive for the sale of farmland.

MN Ag Finance Bill brings more dollars to MDA
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has signed the agriculture finance and policy bill. This bill funds the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Board of Animal Health and the Agricultural Utilization and Research Institute. The legislation includes an extension of the state's farmer-lender mediation program. There is funding to deal with noxious weeds, with a special emphasis on Palmer Amaranth. Dayton is upset the bill does not include the verification of need language that was part of his executive order on pollinator protection.

Buffer adjustments included in newly signed bill
The Minnesota environment and natural resources bill was signed into law. It maintains the November 2017 deadline to install buffers, but a waiver was included in the bill to give landowners an additional eight months to come into compliance. The landowner still needs to commit to a plan with their local Soil and Water Conservation District office by Nov. 1 and claim some type of hardship to receive the waiver. The bill also clarifies the alternative practices allowed within the buffer law.

European dairy prices support world markets
INTL FCStone risk management consultant Kyle Schrad said relatively high dairy prices in Europe are supporting the markets throughout the world. "We've seen a rapid run up over the course of the past two-to-four weeks here," Schrad said. "Basically, being carried by the European market, allowing our prices to move higher. The globe has a strong demand for butterfat now. This is catching up to what we've seen in the United States the last couple of years. As that's happened, we've seen butter prices in Europe skyrocket to fresh record highs. The same thing is true in New Zealand." As dairy farmers consider feed costs, weather will be the big issue for the grain markets. The use of soymeal options may be worthwhile. Schrad said dairy farmers should think about buying call options above the market.

Renegotiating NAFTA
The White House has officially notified the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees that the administration will update the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA negotiations can begin 90 days after this notice is filed with Congress. That means trade talks could start by mid-August. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue welcomed the move, saying "any trade deal can be improved."

Agriculture responds to NAFTA news
Agriculture groups have been fairly united in their support for the renegotiation of the trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said his organization will work to make sure the NAFTA talks strengthen the critical relationship with two of the largest trading partners for the United States National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said the original trade agreement hurt rural America and this is a chance to reset the trade agenda. Many commodity groups voiced support for a strong trade agenda, but emphasized the needs of agriculture should be remembered when NAFTA is updated.

Farm Bill spending priorities
With the 2018 Farm Bill, different ag groups are seeking funds for a variety of priorities. American Farm Bureau Federation chief economist Bob Young said the amount of money in the baseline is very small. "That means you're almost set up for warfare. The corn farmers are trying to protect their own, the cotton farmers and dairy farmers need some dollars. Who will give up? No one will want to give up. That tends to be where the fights in agriculture happen." During the last Farm Bill, there was an agreement amongst agriculture groups that there would not be attempts to cannibalize money from the different titles of the legislation. Young was asked if that will continue in the next Farm Bill debate. "I certainly suspect that's where folks will want to start. I think there's enough support and desire to protect crop insurance that there will be real resistance to take money out of crop insurance to put into Title One. I'm not convinced we will be willing to cross those lines moving forward."

IDFA hires VP of legislative affairs
The former deputy chief of staff and legislative director for North Dakota Senator John Hoeven has joined the staff of the International Dairy Foods Association. Tony Eberhard will take over as IDFA's vice president of legislative affairs.

Newell to leave Midwest Dairy Association
After more than 25 years with the Midwest Dairy Association, Sherry Newell is retiring from that role on July 1. Newell has served as the senior communications manager for the agricultural and dairy trade media. Newell started with the American Dairy Association/Dairy Council of the Upper Midwest in 1992. Before that, Newell was a farm broadcaster with WJON Radio in St. Cloud.

Trivia Challenge
Ninety-seven percent of U.S. dairy farms are family owned. That answers our last trivia question. For this week's trivia, how many nutrients can be found in milk? We'll have the answer in the next edition of Dairy Star.

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