Gov. Walz Extends “Stay Home” Executive Order until May 18
Last week, Gov. Tim Walz extended the “Stay Home” Executive Order (EO) until Monday,May 18. The order was set to expire yesterday, but the Governor once again pushed the order out as the state continues to make progress in preparing for the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor also announced that certain retail businesses and other non-critical businesses were to resume operations with curbside pick-up on Monday, May 4. As a result, it is estimated 30,000 Minnesotans will be back to work safely in a coordinated way that includes current social distancing guidelines. The extension of the Executive Order is the second such time the Governor has taken this action. The first “Stay Home” EO ran from March 27 to April 10, while the second ran from April 8 to May 4. It is expected that the Governor will again determine if the “Stay Home” EO will need to be extended in the upcoming weeks.
Legislative Activity Picks Up as May 18 Adjournment Date Looms
With less than two weeks to go in the 2020 session, many priorities are still on the plate for lawmakers in St. Paul despite the COVID-19 pandemic altering the traditional legislative process. Members of the House and Senate continue to meet in person and virtually to address COVID-19-related legislation, as well as other key items that were on the agenda prior to the outbreak. Last week, committees in both bodies continued to debate the details of omnibus bills dealing with issue areas including agriculture, bonding, and taxes.
The Senate approved their version of an omnibus tax bill to help small businesses battling financial hardship caused by COVID-19 and the “Stay Home” Executive Order. The $330 million bill includes language to allow for certain businesses to be granted delayed tax payments, delayed installments of estimated tax payments, delayed accelerated sales tax payments, and delayed general statewide business property tax payments. In addition, the bill provides retroactive conformity to Section 179 of the federal tax code, which will allow farmers and other small business owners to deduct large equipment purchases. This measure is one of AgriGrowth’s key legislative priorities this session. It is yet to be determined what the House will include in their version of an omnibus tax bill, as well as what support will be provided by the Walz Administration.
House and Senate Roll OutOmnibus Agriculture Finance and Policy Bills
The omnibus agriculture policy bill authored by Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL – Austin) and Sen. Bill Weber (R – Luverne) includes initiatives requested by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, along with provisions from a host of other bills heard by the respective agriculture committees this session. Among the items included in the bill were modifications to state seed and noxious weed laws, laws governing perishable farm product buyers, state loan programs, eggs, meat and poultry inspections, farm safety, grain buyers, emerging farmers, industrial hemp, agricultural education and pet food.
The supplemental omnibus agriculture finance bill also continues to move through the legislative process. Authored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R – Elbow Lake) and Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL –Austin), this bill includes several appropriations for areas of critical need to the agriculture and food worlds. Among the items are $675,000 to the University of Minnesota to purchase testing equipment for the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, including equipment and supplies needed to respond to incidents of African swine fever. In addition, $150,000 is included for assistance to farmers and value-added agricultural businesses whose markets and operations were negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The bill also includes $100,000 for farm safety grants and outreach programs, an additional $50,000 for community outreach on farms and rural mental health services, and suicide prevention training.
These bills continue to move through both bodies of the legislature and are expected to reach the Governor’s desk in advance of the end of the 2020 regular session.
JOIN US for AgriGrowth's June 2 Virtual Legislative Wrap-Up
AgriGrowth’s Legislative Wrap-Up Meeting will feature four House and Senate caucus leaders discussing key legislation passed during the 2020 regular session and its impact on agriculture and agri-food. Join us for this concise and pointed discussion on how COVID-19 turned state priorities from how to spend a $1.5 billion budget surplus to how to fund a host of emergency relief packages to assist Minnesotans throughout the state.
Advance registration is required, so please be sure to register to hear from top legislative leaders working on agriculture, food and rural development policies. Time will also be allowed for AgriGrowth members to pose questions to these lawmakers on any pressing issues affecting your business.
MDA Commissioner Thom Petersen Confirmed by Senate
Last week, Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Commissioner Thom Petersen was confirmed by the State Senate. Earlier this session, AgriGrowth supported his confirmation with a letter to Senate Agriculture committee members. The letter also indicated that the seeds of AgriGrowth were planted by former Commissioner of Agriculture Russel G. Schwandt when he organized a group of farmers, processors and agribusiness that became known as the Minnesota AgriGrowth Council back in the summer of 1968. Prior to serving as AgriGrowth’s first President, Mr. Schwandt served as Minnesota’s Commissioner of Agriculture from October 1964 to February 1969 when he was first appointed by DFL Governor Karl F. Rolvaag and reappointed by Republican Governor Harold LeVander.
-Patrick Murray, Director of Member and Government Relations