Current Issues

Updated January 3, 2017

Governor's Town Hall Water Summit

Join Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith for a Town Hall Water Summit to be held Friday, January 27 at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Registration opens January 6, and the full program is to be announced on that date. Registering on the opening date (January 6) is recommended. The Minnesota Farm Bureau encourages members to attend and participate in this event.

Learn more about the Year of Water Action here.

2017 Legislative Session Preview

The 2017 session of the Minnesota Legislature begins today, January 3. Take a numerical look at the incoming members of the House and Senate for the 90th Legislative Biennium here.

Farm Bureau Anticipating Regulatory Reforms Under New Congress

In early January, lawmakers are likely to consider legislation that would reform the rulemaking process for federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) Paul Schlegel, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) director of environment and energy policy, explained that recent EPA actions highlight the need for change.

"We need to have changes in the system to make sure that stakeholders like farmers and ranchers are protected when these rulemakings take place," said Schlegel, pointing to the Waters of the U.S. rulemaking, in which the agency was effectively lobbying itself.

"The way they used social media went over the line as to what we thought was a fair and objective approach to the rule," said Schlegel.

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115th Congress Begins

The 115th Congress will be sworn into office on Tuesday, January 3. Stay up to date with your members of Congress by visiting their websites, following them on social media and signing up for weekly newsletters:

Committee Assignments Announce for 2017-2018 Legislative Session

Minnesota House speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) announced committee assignments for the 2017-2018 Legislature.

The 27 committees, subcommittees and divisions that House Republican leadership named in late November are at the core of the legislative process. They act as filters, deciding which of the thousands of bills introduced during the two-year biennium will get a hearing and continue to move through the legislative process toward becoming law. A list of Minnesota Senate Committee structure can be found at the link below.

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USTR Begins Action Against EU Beef Restrictions

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has started a process for action against the European Union's (EU) restrictions on U.S. beef imports. Following a public hearing and after reviewing comments, USTR could decide to reinstate World Trade Organization (WTO)-authorized retaliatory tariffs on EU products imported into the U.S. if the EU does not remove its restrictions on U.S. beef.

In 1998, the EU lost a WTO case brought by the U.S. against EU barriers to U.S. beef treated with certain hormones. The decision authorized the U.S. to impose retaliatory tariffs worth $116 million annually, but the EU did not remove the restrictions.

In 2009, the U.S. and the EU signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a duty-free quota for imports of non-hormone specialty beef into the EU to compensate the U.S. for losses from the import ban. In recent years, the specialty beef quota has also been used by other suppliers, reducing the positive impact for U.S. producers.

Negotiations to resolve the original dispute with the EU have not been successful. The imposition of retaliatory duties by the U.S. was suspended in 2009.

Superweed Introduced to Minnesota with Conservation Seed Mix

Federal programs designed to help farmers set aside more habitat for bees and wildlife have produced a dangerous offshoot this year. Some mixes used to plant native grasses and flowers were contaminated with harmful weed seeds that have now been introduced onto hundreds of farms in several Midwestern states, including Minnesota.

The weeds include Palmer amaranth, one of the most prolific and devastating weeds in the country for corn, soybeans and other row crops. It has been a scourge for cotton and soybean farmers in the South and has slowly but steadily started to move north into the nation's Corn Belt. The inadvertent planting of weed seeds on conservation land has greatly accelerated their spread, leading to the discovery of Palmer in Minnesota for the first time.

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Organic Advisory Task Force Members

Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson announced the new 13-member roster of the Organic Advisory Task Force. The new members will serve three-year terms, representing organic farmers, retailers, educators, certifiers, consumers and the public.

Members of the Task Force will advise the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the University of Minnesota on policies concerning organic production in Minnesota, and weigh in on how to effectively provide outreach, education, research, and technical assistance to the greater organic community. Included on this advisory task Force is MFBF District III Director Carolyn Olson.

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