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State Representative Paul Anderson

369 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-4317

For more information contact: Chad Urdahl 651-296-5520

Posted: 2017-10-23
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Guest Column

New health insurance plan for ag. workers


 

By Rep. Paul Anderson

Many farmers in Minnesota, along with other small business owners, have been waiting a long time to become eligible to participate in group plans that offer health insurance. Up until now, most had to purchase their coverage on the individual market, which has seen huge premium increases in recent years. It appears, for farmers at least, the wait is over as a new health plan is about to begin offering coverage to producers of agricultural products.

The new plan is called 40 Square, a member-owned and self-funded entity, that will start with open enrollment the first of November and coverage on Jan. 1 of 2018. To be eligible, one must produce an ag commodity and file either a Schedule F or a Form 1065 on their tax return. In addition, a farmer must also have at least one “common law employee.” That would include nearly anyone who did any amount of work on the farm. The caveat here though, is that the number of hours worked or the wages paid don’t matter. The only stipulation is that the employee must be issued a W-2 tax form.

This feature is unique as it differs considerably from the requirement for being eligible for group coverage, which required at least 20 hours of work per week by the employee. With this new plan, regular employees who work at least 30 hours a week must be offered coverage, but there is no requirement for cost-sharing by the employer.

Producers taking part in 40 Square must sign up for at least three years. Stock must be purchased to make the producer an owner in the plan. Each farm must purchase one share of voting stock for $100, in addition to one share of common stock for $1000. Proceeds from the common stock will be put into a trust, which goes to help fund the plan.

Informational meetings are currently being held, with most being in southern Minnesota so far. Others, including locations in Alexandria and Morris, are also being scheduled. For additional information on plan specifics and locations of upcoming meetings, go to this website: https://40square.coop.

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It was announced two weeks ago that the invasive weed, Palmer amaranth, was found on multiple sites in Todd County. All were in new CRP seedings. It’s hoped that since the actual planting at these locations was done this summer, and with our cool August conditions, the plants didn’t produce viable seed.

My big concern right now with this nasty weed is the timing of all the new buffer strips that are being mandated in Minnesota. The only requirement for buffers is that they be “permanent vegetative cover,” with nothing prescribed for certain types of grasses or flowers. Some however, may elect to plant pollinator-friendly mixes of seed. And with the two outbreaks of Palmer Amaranth in Minnesota, both occurring in prescribed-mix CRP plantings, we are getting seed contamination from someplace.

Anyone seeding buffers this fall or next summer should be very careful about where their seed originates. With thousands of acres of new buffers about to be planted in the next year, we can ill afford to have multiple locations of this destructive weed gain a foothold in Minnesota.

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