By Rep. Paul Anderson
If this weather continues, we could be in for a long winter! Two storms last week left our state covered in white, as snow and high winds combined to create difficult conditions during the busiest travel week of the year.
This, on top of one of the most challenging growing seasons for farmers in memory. First, a late and wet spring delayed planting. Then, continued wet weather into June caused many fields to go unplanted. And when we needed a warm and dry fall to finish out the crops and dry them down in the field, we got just the opposite.
More rain, and even snow, along with bitter cold temps, made this a harvest season to try and forget. In all my years of farming, I don’t recall having to wonder if the combine would start the next morning because the weather report said the temp was going to drop into the teens overnight. One farmer lamented that his combine was sitting out in the field with dead batteries and plugged fuel filters. And before the ground froze, we got our combine stuck so bad a back hoe had to dig it out of the mud!
Economic conditions are also still difficult. In general, most crops probably turned out somewhat better than anticipated, considering the late spring. However, high moisture levels in harvested grain, along with low test weights, have combined to make discounts at the elevator pretty steep. And for those who dry their own corn, shortages of propane and natural gas caused angst in some areas as harvest had to stop because fuel wasn’t available to keep dryers going. Gov. Walz signed an "hours of exemption order" for truckers as they were forced to travel further and wait in line longer to load. Some were traveling as far as Kansas to pick up propane!
Lake Minnewaska in Pope County froze over Nov. 12, one of the earliest dates in recent history. That meant the ground also froze, stopping fall tillage and fertilizer application. It later thawed out again, which did allow for some limited, additional work to get done. We are shaping up for another challenge next spring to get enough fertilizer in place to make up for what didn’t get applied this fall. One forecast called for the opening of shipping on the upper Mississippi River to be in late April, which could be too late to replenish supplies in some parts of the state.
The Department of Human Services in St. Paul has been in the news too often this year, mainly for overpayment of benefits, along with staff resignations and re-hirings. The House finally held a hearing on the topic, as it was scheduled for earlier this week. Maybe we will finally get some answers to how one department could mismanage millions of taxpayer dollars.
Another area I’m working on is the state’s lack of full compliance with federal Section 179 depreciation. Because the state does not allow the same higher depreciation limits that the IRS does, we have a problem. With like-kind exchanges now treated as income, businesses are being hit with tax bills for last year from the Dept. of Revenue. Anyone who makes capital purchases and trades older equipment as part of the deal, could be subject to this new Minnesota tax. I’ve had constituents contact me after receiving letters saying they owe thousands of dollars in additional income tax. Some of these amounts are large, getting up into the six-figure mark!
We are talking a lot of money here. Figures from Revenue show they expect to collect $5.9 million from business corporations in fiscal year 2020 and $4.7 million from individuals. I am having legislation drafted that would make our state fully compliant with Section 179 and allow fast depreciation of up to one million dollars. We go back into session in February and it’s one of the first things I want to see action on.