Column: 2013 - The year of the attack on farmers by legislative Democrats
BY DISTRICT 21B REP. STEVE DRAZKOWSKI
MAZEPPA — With the annual FarmFest event just days away, many Minnesota farmers might be wondering how their lives may change thanks to the decisions made by Gov. Mark Dayton and our new DFL-led legislature.
No one can deny the importance of Minnesota’s farmers. Not only are they the backbone of Minnesota’s economy, they are also responsible for producing the food that helps feed our nation and our world. Clearly these are people we should be encouraging to expand their operations, not punishing them for any success they may have achieved.
Apparently Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature believe differently. Not only did they do little to improve the agriculture industry during this past legislative session, they spent a great deal of their time finding ways to make farmers pay more.
For example, have you heard about the maintenance and repair sales tax? Every time your tractor, combine or any other piece of farm equipment needs fixing, farmers will now pay a sales tax on the service, including labor charges.
Or how about the warehousing and storage services sales tax? While farm products are exempt from this tax — corn and soybean commodity grain, etc. — the inputs used to produce these products are not. This means the warehousing fee farmers pay to store tractors, fertilizer, fuel and other inputs will now be taxed.
The statewide general school levy will create a new tax on farm property. Under this tax, the education commissioner will set a uniform property tax rate to be applied to all property in Minnesota. This means that every Minnesota farmer will now be forced to pay an additional state imposed property tax on every acre of land and building that they own.
The legislature and the governor also changed how assessors may value land containing most conservation easements. Previously, a county assessor was allowed under state law to reduce the value of property with an easement due to the limited use of the property. This reduced the property taxes paid by the landowner and incentivized easement purchases in Greater Minnesota. However, this process has now been changed to say that assessors CANNOT reduce the value of land holding an easement. This means if a county had previously reduced the value of a property with an easement, that property will now be valued at its highest and best use. This includes productive ag land, and will result in property owners with current easement agreements to experience a significant property tax increase.
In all, there are more than a dozen new laws passed by the DFL-led legislature this session that will force farmers to increase their cost of doing business.
As a strong supporter of Minnesota agriculture, I’m unsure why Democrats made 2013 the year to attack our farmers. But there’s little doubt those who make their living off their land will now pay more so legislative Democrats can wastefully spend their hard-earned money.
To learn more about other new laws that negatively impact farmers, visit www.house.mn/21B and click on the “Attack on Farmers” link under “News Items.”
District 21B State Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, is a former ag educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service.