Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Friday, September 19, 2008


You can recognize it when you see it? Not in the eyes of the Minnesota Department of Revenue. This department recently sent a directive to the Nicollet County Board of Commissioners and our county assessor, Doreen Pehrson requiring the change of over one hundred parcels to the rural residential classification. These parcels were previously classed as agriculture. The result was that some properties that have been farms for decades now become residential by the stroke of a pen. Another result is that the taxes on these parcels will increase. The department used a set of criteria and looked at what they called “gray” areas and particularly parcels of 10 acres or less in production. This ruling by the state cannot be appealed.

Up until this time the county had been using a policy set up several years ago. I was part of that process and I personally visited many of the parcels that were in question. And, I will testify that “you can tell if it is a farm or not when you see it.” When I stopped by Tom Zellmer’s farm in Belgrade township, there was no doubt in my mind that it was a farm. Tom Zellmer visited the Nicollet County Board of Commissioner’s meeting on September 10 to indicate his displeasure with this new ruling. Tom said, “the property has been in my family for over 80 years and at this time we do not have livestock other than horses. The property has been used to raise alfalfa in the past.” The Zellmers have a barn, outbuildings etc that are needed for raising and breeding horses.

Zellmer acknowledged that his farm may not look like a typical farm of today, but strongly argued (and rightly so, in my opinion) that the production of horses is an agricultural activity. The state department of revenue has the task of trying to determine if the property is agriculture or rural residential and then establishing guidelines for local officials to follow. Some of the problem arises from the preponderance of mini mansions sprouting up in the Metro ring counties. These homes, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars are on six, eight, ten, or twelve acres and many of them raise a few horses for the enjoyment of the family. They then claim to be “agricultural” in property class. Again, a visit to the parcel might clear up some of the mis-understanding, but the cost of sending state officials out to visit these properties would be prohibitive. The answer is that there needs to be an appeal process. As Tom Zellmer stated, “even a life in prison sentence is appealable- but not this!”

County Assessor Doreen Pehrson suggested that landowners could call John Hagen at the Minnesota Department of Revenue at 651-556-6106. End


The Minnesota Valley Action Council is a community action agency that works in nine counties to offer support for persons experiencing low income or financial challenges. The council’s mission is multifaceted. One of the areas is Community Services and the agency offers support in energy assistance, financial management, rental assistance, eviction issues, car repairs, childcare, immigrant issues, legal aid etc. The agency has logged a 24% increase in phone calls and visits to its offices in August of 2008 over August of 2007. Some of the biggest increases were in job training, eviction, and financial management. end

Friday, September 05, 2008


Rural voters have typically supported the Republican Party. After this week’s convention, that may change. Minnesota farmers and particularly Minnesota Corn Farmers have a lot bones to pick with the Republican Party. The Corn Grower’s Association ponied up $75,000 to help put on a bash for the delegates billed as an Ag Nite Celebration. What do the Republicans do? They come out opposing tax breaks for ethanol and call for the repeal of the Renewable Fuel Standards. This is a reversal of their former position. It appears McCain wants to distance himself from the Bush Administration. This is not the way to do it!

Why would the GOP want to adopt a platform that limits energy options? Don’t they understand that ethanol incentives that lead to more use of the product means less dependence on foreign oil and indirectly keeps the cost of fuel lower. The addition of another fuel just naturally lowers the amount of gasoline needed and thus means spending less on oil. The major farm organizations are not happy with this idea of repealing the Renewable Fuel Standard, especially when nothing has been mentioned about repealing the tax cuts to the oil companies.
Farm groups are also leery of McCain who opposed the farm bill which is really a food bill benefiting consumers more than it is a farm bill that benefits farmers.end

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Missed the Family Dog!

The only thing missing from last night's Republican convention vice presidential speech was the family dog. Governor Sarah Palin is sure to capture the warm feelings and perhaps votes from many middle class families in this country. The Palin Family covers the whole ball of wax - in regard to having a connectedness with almost every family. If she could have included the family dog - that would have been the frosting on the cake! I wonder if their dog is an Alaskan Malamute?

Governor Palin is reported to be very knowledgable in the area of energy. If that is so, she needs to learn more and add another word to her vocabulary. She and McCain need to learn about ethanol. The candidates will lose votes unless they change their positions that presently do not support ethanol as a bridge to bringing us energy independence. Palin was in Minnesota the state that produces the most ethanol and the word did not come from her lips. A major mistake! end