Grassroots voice heard at MCGA pre-resolution meeting

Delegates from more than three dozen county corn grower organizations gathered Thursday, Dec. 2 and put together a variety of potential additions to the Minnesota Corn Growers Association policy book for 2011.

These new resolutions will be polished into final form and approved at the MCGA annual meeting, which takes place during MN Ag EXPO, Monday and Tuesday, January 17 and 18 at Jackpot Junction Resort and Casino in Morton.

Because ethanol still provides a cornerstone for farm prosperity in Minnesota, a number of resolutions focused on helping farm-based energy industries continue to grow.

The federal Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) is set to expire on Dec. 31, and given the uncertainty that it will be reauthorized, a resolution supporting mandatory use of ethanol, as provided in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, be maintained regardless of whether these VEETC payments continue to flow to fuel blenders. Farmers favor incentive-based programs as the most effective way to build markets or encourage actions with a perceived public benefit. But lacking VEETC, America should nevertheless not back away from its commitment to increase alternatives to imported oil.

Looking more particularly at Minnesota, delegates voted to keep a resolution on the books supporting the continuation of ethanol producer payments. At this point most of the ethanol plants have obtained the support that the state promised these businesses for undertaking the risk of pioneering the ethanol industry. Reauthorizing or replenishing funding for the program could potentially encourage expansion of ethanol production in Minnesota, which MCGA supports. Minnesota currently produces a billion gallons of ethanol fuel, much of which is exported out of state and is a major boost to the Minnesota economy.

Another resolution seeks to short-circuit a potential conflict of interest in state agencies: to assure that funds that proceed from fines levied against ethanol producers flow into the state’s general fund, rather than to the operating fund of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Currently, MPCA receives those funds directly, and the proposed resolution expressed the sense that this creates an unhealthy incentive to authorize fines.

As more government programs seek to take agricultural land out of production for environmental benefit, MCGA delegates argued for more deliberation and planning in government’s approach to such land set-asides–to assure that no localities bear an unfair burden. A resolution calls for such set asides to require a fiscal impact assessment that will determine where funds for the purchase and upkeep of land will come from and show the impact on local tax revenues and local economic activity.

Concerns continue to grow regarding how government conducts meetings across the range of units of government, and state and regional agencies. A resolution supports measures that will ensure the maintenance of Minnesota’s open meeting laws. The resolution proposes several measures, including requiring that all meetings allow not only written but also verbal submissions for the record, and requiring the video recording of all government meetings, to assure fair and accurate reporting of the outcome of these meetings in official minutes because this has a bearing on how these government units handle the issues reviewed at these meetings.

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