MN Beginning Farmer Land Access Legislation Advances

Land Stewardship Project Sees Bill as Important Step for Getting More Beginning Farmers on the Land

SAINT PAUL, Minn.—A bill moving through the Minnesota Legislature would help beginning farmers overcome one of the biggest barriers they face when trying to launch an agricultural business: access to land. According to farmer-members of the Land Stewardship Project (LSP), such legislation is long overdue in a state where an increasing number of beginning farmers are seeking opportunities in agriculture. The legislation would provide tax credits to Minnesota landowners who rent or sell land to a beginning farmer. After receiving a positive reception from legislators during hearings in the House and Senate Tax Committees, the legislation will be considered for possible inclusion in the overall omnibus tax bill.

Various versions of this legislation have been considered during past legislative sessions. Passing the tax credits this year would be a key step toward supporting the next generation of Minnesota farmers, according to Julie Arnold, a Lindstrom, Minn., farmer and LSP policy organizer who testified in both tax committees in support of the legislation.

“If we’re serious about supporting beginning farmers in this state, passing this legislation is the least we can do,” she said.

The legislation, authored in the Senate by Sen. Michael Goggin (R-Redwing) and in the House by Rep. Nels Pierson (R-Rochester), would provide landowners a state income tax credit when they sell or rent land to a beginning farmer. The credit would be equal to 5 percent of the sale price, 10 percent of the cash rent fee or 15 percent of the crop share value. To qualify for the tax incentive, the beginning farmer must take a farm management course. The beginning farmer would be eligible for a tax credit that would cover the full cost of that training.

LSP farmer-members such as Nolan Lenzen, an Eagle Bend, Minn., dairy farmer, met with Rep. Pierson and testified in support of the legislation in front of the House Agriculture Policy Committee, which passed the proposal. He is a graduate of LSP’s Farm Beginnings course, a program that provides students with the training and networking needed to launch low-cost, profitable agricultural enterprises. Although graduates of Farm Beginnings are receiving training that’s been lauded by the USDA as a national model, they are running into major barriers when it comes to gaining access to land.

“Ten years ago, I had a run-around purchasing land,” said Lenzen, a Farm Beginnings graduate who is also a member of LSP’s State Policy Committee. “It felt tough to find land 10 years ago, so I can’t imagine what new farmers are facing today. This legislation would have helped me secure land more easily because of the incentive for the landowner.”

Senate File 1414 is co-authored by Senators Andrew Mathews (R-Milaca), Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake), Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley) and Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin). House File 608 is co-authored by Representatives Jason Rarick (R-Pine City), Josh Heintzeman (R-Baxter), Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), Greg Davids (R-Preston), Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin), Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona), Clark Johnson (DFL-North Mankato) and David Bly (DFL-Northfield).