Current Issues

Updated April 24, 2017

Perdue Confirmed as Secretary of Agriculture

Sonny Perdue has been confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as the next Secretary of Agriculture. Secretary Perdue is a needed voice for agriculture as the new administration addresses issues like trade, regulatory reform, agriculture labor and the next farm bill.

Minnesota Farm Bureau thanks Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Al Franken for their support of Secretary Perdue during today's vote.

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Omnibus Tax Bill Repurposes Some 2016 Vetoed Provisionsx

Many provisions in the Minnesota House and Senate versions of HF4/ SF2255, this year's omnibus tax bill, sponsored by Representative Davids (R-Preston) and Senator Chamberlain (R-Lino), have been repurposed from previous years, including a tax credit on the portion of agricultural property taxes paid toward school debt bond levies. Currently Governor Dayton and the Senate have proposed a 40 percent credit similar to the 2016 policy that was ultimately vetoed. The House, however, has proposed a 50 percent credit.

Minnesota Farm Bureau will continue working with elected officials and administration as the Tax Bill works its way through conference committee and finally to the Governor's office.

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Revisiting NAFTA: Implications for U.S. Agricultural Markets

In recent months, a lot of attention has been given to the importance of trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada since the Trump administration began talking about potentially renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). That attention is more than deserved, especially for U.S. agriculture. Agricultural-related issues that could be revisited in a "modernized" NAFTA include biotechnology, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and geographic indicators.

Depending on the year, Canada is either our largest or second-largest export destination, while Mexico is consistently our third-largest market. Combined, they account for about one-third of U.S. agricultural exports. Since implementation, agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have totaled approximately $310 billion and increased by more than 300 percent from pre-NAFTA levels.

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Buffer Law, Fee Increases on Table as Environment Conference Committee Startss

Fee increases at state parks and delays in the buffer law are just a few of the issues up for negotiation as the omnibus environment, natural resources policy and finance conference committee met for the first-time Wednesday. While the House delays implementation of the buffer law until 2018 for both public waters and public drainage systems, the Senate proposal delays implementation of buffers on public waters to 2019 and public drainage systems to 2020. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill address the issues with the DNR's buffer map and classification of public waters.

Minnesota Farm Bureau is supportive of removing the public waters without a shoreline classification from the 50 foot buffer category and placing them on the 16.5 foot map.

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Budget Negotiations Continue

After the U.S. House and U.S. Senate get back to Washington this week, they will need to address funding for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year. The current continuing resolution runs out at midnight on Friday, April 28. If a budget deal to fund the government through September 30 cannot be finalized in time, a short-term continuing resolution will need to be signed into law to avoid a government shutdown. A continuing resolution will continue to fund the government at existing levels for a set period of time while Congress continues to negotiate funding levels for the remainder of this fiscal year. Areas of contention between the Administration and members of Congress have been funding a border wall with Mexico and healthcare funding.

The last time the government shutdown was in October 2013 and lasted for 16 days. The current continuing resolution was signed December 10, 2016 and is set to expire on April 28, 2017.

Boswell Moving to USDA

Kristi Boswell, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) farm labor and immigration specialist, has accepted a position as senior advisor to soon-to-be Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. She starts her new job on May 1.

A Nebraska native with a law degree, Boswell started at AFBF in 2012 and quickly established her presence on Capitol Hill and in the Washington, D.C. ag labor community as a go-to expert on immigration, farm worker/ag labor issues and regulations. She has also been the point person on AFBF's work on the Food Safety Modernization Act and served as a staff lead on a team working to enhance farm safety programs and training.