‘There’s still a lot of work ahead of us’

GILFILLAN ESTATE – Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton emphasized the importance of Minnesota agriculture in more ways than one during a visit to Farmfest on Thursday. Besides giving the keynote address at the farm show, Dayton also said he would be willing to look at repealing a new tax on farm equipment repairs in a special session this fall.

During his address Thursday morning, Dayton spoke of the challenges facing Minnesota farmers.

“Today, agriculture requires not only physical strength but many other skills,” Dayton said. Minnesota farmers are facing challenging times, he said. Factors ranging from last year’s drought to low grain prices and Congress’ inability to pass a new farm bill all affect agriculture in the state.

However, he said there are also positive factors. Minnesota’s farms played a key role in helping the state recover from recession.

“Agriculture has always been the bedrock of our state’s economy,” Dayton said. “When the farmers do well, the businesses on Main Street do well.”

In Minnesota, supporting agriculture and farmers “is not a bipartisan issue,” Dayton said. He said citizens and agriculture supporters have made farming’s importance very clear to state legislators.

Dayton’s speech also touched on issues affecting Minnesota in general.

“I’m very pleased to report that the rest of our economy is also getting better,” Dayton said. He said the people, businesses, teachers and employers of Minnesota deserve the credit for job growth and economic recovery in the state.

Government finances have also improved, he said. The state has paid back money borrowed from Minnesota schools, and the state’s projected deficit is now a fraction of what it used to be, he said.

“We’re not yet out of the deep financial hole we inherited, but we can see the daylight at the end of it,” Dayton said. “There’s still a lot of work ahead of us and much progress that needs to be made.”

In other remarks at Farmfest, Dayton said he would be willing to include repealing a sales tax on farm equipment repairs during a special legislative session that would begin Sept. 9. Before Thursday, the only action planned for the special session was disaster relief for severe storms that swept Minnesota in June.

Dayton said the farm equipment repair tax was “a very bad mistake,” and one he would be open to correcting. Dayton said he would also be willing to work with Republican legislators on repealing a warehousing tax set to take effect next year – but not during the special session.

“I’m willing to consider everything, but I don’t want this to become another session,” Dayton said.

Repealing the warehousing tax would also have a big effect on state revenues, Dayton said. Legislators would need to find another way to come up with the funding.