AgriGrowth Policy Update 8.11.20

August 11, 2020

AgriGrowth Urges Lawmakers to Pass Full 179 Tax Conformity

The second special session of 2020 came to an end last month without an agreement on much needed Section 179 tax conformity legislation supported by AgriGrowth. Gov. Tim Walz called the special session as a host of unfinished items were left over from the regular session that concluded in May. Among them were the passage of an omnibus tax bill and a capital investment bonding bill. In addition, Gov. Walz’s emergency powers related to the COVID-19 pandemic were also set to expire and in order for them to be extended, the legislature was required to be in session.

The legislature is scheduled to be back in session  this week so these powers can be extended once again. However, due to a breakdown during negotiations between the Walz Administration and legislative leadership during the last special session, it is uncertain as to if they will make any progress on Section 179 tax conformity. If they do not, it is anticipated that lawmakers will be called back to St. Paul for a fourth special session next month so Gov. Walz can extend his emergency powers again.

AgriGrowth continues to advocate in support of full Section 179 conformity and as a result of the last special session impasse, several agricultural advocacy groups including AgriGrowth recently signed onto a letter encouraging lawmakers to pass this legislation during an upcoming special session. Among the organizations who also signed onto the letter were AgCountry Farm Credit Services, Compeer Financial, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Milk Producers Association, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, and the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association.

Included in the letter was a timely statement from AgriGrowth: “For the past two legislative sessions, AgriGrowth and its members have held full conformity of Section 179 with federal tax law as a top priority,” said AgriGrowth Executive Director Tamara Nelsen. “We are pleased to cooperate with other Minnesota ag groups to raise the profile of the immediate need for full conformity of Section 179 with Governor Walz and our legislative leaders.”

If you have any questions about the special sessions or any other public policy priorities, please contact Patrick Murray at or (651) 238-0089.

Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition Launches Statewide Speed Test Initiative

The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition recently introduced the Minnesota Broadband Speed Test Initiative, which will give community and state leaders granular data about where broadband internet service is available and what speeds people are receiving. The speed test can be taken with any device that has an internet or cellular connection and takes less than one minute to complete. No personal information will be collected. Testing data will be statistically valid and provide a map of what service levels are for any given area in the state. This information will be an important tool for communities that are planning a broadband expansion project through the FCC, USDA, or MN Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program. As a member of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, AgriGrowth continues to play a role by informing lawmakers that investment in broadband infrastructure is even more critical now for safety, education, jobs and commerce in today's COVID-19 economy.

MDA Announces Nitrogen Fertilizer Restrictions to Begin on September 1

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is reminding farmers and landowners that beginning September 1, 2020, the application of nitrogen fertilizer in the fall and on frozen soil will be restricted in areas vulnerable to groundwater contamination. This will also apply to Drinking Water Supply Management Areas (DWSMAs) with elevated nitrate levels. Vulnerable groundwater areas include coarse textured soils, karst geology, and shallow bedrock.

According to MDA, approximately 12 to 13 percent of Minnesota’s cropland is vulnerable to groundwater contamination. A map showing the vulnerable groundwater areas as well as a list of exceptions to the restrictions are outlined on the Groundwater Protection Rule website.

A short video on the fall restrictions and links for additional information are available on the MDA website.  The MDA will also hold a webinar on August 12, 2020, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. to answer questions. The video and webinar details are available online.

The nitrogen fertilizer restrictions are part of the Groundwater Protection Rule, which minimizes potential fertilizer sources of nitrate pollution to the state’s groundwater and works with local farmers to prevent public water supply wells from exceeding the drinking water standard for nitrate contamination. For more information, please contact Larry Gunderson at (651) 201-6168 or

USDA Investigates Packages of Unsolicited Seeds from China

The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seeds that appear to be coming from China. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation. USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) also continues to receive reports of citizens getting unsolicited seed packages in the mail. To date, over 700 Minnesotans have made reports to the department. The packages have contained a variety of seeds. Seed analysts with the MDA Laboratory have identified some as cosmos, radish, mung bean, juniper, basil, cucurbit, and zinnia. While these are not seeds from invasive plants, seeds may carry disease and pests can hide in packaging. So far, there is no indication these unsolicited seeds have gone through appropriate inspection or that they are properly labeled.

The MDA is working with USDA on the issue. All seeds collected in Minnesota are being sent to USDA for additional identification and destruction. Federal officials are investigating the source of the seeds, and the USDA is currently referring to the situation as a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. According to Minnesota law, all seeds sold in the state must be properly labeled, and those selling seeds are required to have a permit from the MDA.

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