Legislature, Dayton help out farmers

The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation on Wednesday released a statement hailing the Minnesota’s Legislature’s passing of the omnibus tax bill. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill on Tuesday. The bill included a 40 percent tax credit on the portion of agriculture property taxes going toward school debt bond levies.

“MFBF strongly supports Minnesota schools and is very thankful for the work done by the administration and legislators in conducting several town hall meetings throughout Minnesota to visit with farmers and landowners on the issue of high agriculture property taxes,” MFBF President Kevin Paap said. “We appreciate their efforts to find sustainable solutions to fund capital school projects and help reduce the cost paid by farmers and landowners.”

We agree with the federation’s statement. The Legislature’s passing of this bill was indeed a positive measure for farmers — and possibly school districts such as Marshall Public Schools.

Marshall voters overwhelmingly rejected a $40 million school bond measure in April. The district argued for the need to expand and renovate facilities to reduce overcrowding. But Marshall joined voters across the state to defeat recent bond measures.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported last week that voters shot down school bond measures at the highest rate in years. Five out of six referendums were rejected in May alone.

The Star Tribune also reported that since January, at least 16 school districts have sought voter permission to sell bonds to fund renovation or construction projects. But just four requests passed. The report also stated the 25 percent success rate is the lowest in the 17 years since the Minnesota School Boards Association began tracking bond issue data.

“This is the worst year for bonds I’ve seen,” Greg Abbot was quoted by the Star Tribune. He is the spokesman with the association.

In rural districts such as Marshall, farmers probably played a big role in the defeats.

“Some of the ag folks feel like they’ve had a rough few years in the ag industry, and it’s a difficult time for us to ask them to give a lot,” Pierz School District Superintendent George Weber said in the Star Tribune article.

Nobody can say for sure if the 40 percent tax credit would have made a difference in Marshall or the other school districts where bond measures failed. But farmers need this break during the current rough economic conditions.