During the latest session, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill that provides a tax credit to landowners if they sell to young and beginning farmers.

One of the bill’s primary authors, Sen. Michael Goggin (R-District  21), is vice chair of the Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Policy. From Red Wing, Minn., Goggin said he was approached with the idea, which he called “common sense.”

“Anything we can do to incentivize keeping the agricultural industry strong, I’m all for it,” Goggin said. “Right now, we have aging farmers, and they’re trying to transition to retirement, but we don’t have many young farmers coming in.”

The bill was originally the work of the Central Minnesota Young Farmers Coalition, and co-leader Andrew Barsness discussed the effort in an interview with Ag Daily. Barsness is a beginning farmer.

“Young farmers across the state worked hard to see this pass,” he said. “We organized, testified, and worked with the authors to get a good piece of legislation. For many of us, this was our first time getting political. This effort showed that by working with a broad coalition and staying focused on practical solutions, beginning farmers have a voice and power.”

With the legislation in place, landowners receive a state income tax credit equaling five percent of the sale price or 10 percent of the cash rent when they sell or rent to young and beginning farmers. Landowners can also receive a credit worth 15 percent on a cash share agreement. The credit takes effect for the tax year 2018, though the funds are limited to $12 million and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Goggin stressed the importance of young farmers, and he wasn’t the only one. Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Farm Bureau, the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the Land Stewardship Project supported the bill, which had bi-partisan support in both houses of the legislature.

“I had a group of young farmers in my office at the beginning of the session,” Goggin said. “This evolved from that discussion and blossomed from there. Farming is the backbone of our country, whether people want to admit it or not. … We need younger people coming in, so we can try some of these new farming techniques. It’s time for the next generation to start doing that. This was realistic and reasonable.”

NDFU President Mark Watne said the bill was a step in the right direction for young and beginning farmers.

“Any time an opportunity exists to aid the transfer of land to a new generation of family farmers, it needs to be supported,” he said. “We need to be substantially more innovative in our efforts to keep family farm agriculture the tool of food security.”

The bill, the only one of its kind in America, is the latest attempt to boost the amount of young farmers in agriculture. Other bills to support young farmers haven’t been as successful, such as student-loan forgiveness. It failed in North Dakota in 2015 and Montana in 2017.

— Chris Aarhus, NDFU