ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota farmers and farm groups praised Gov. Mark Dayton for signing legislation to establish tax credits designed to help new and beginning agricultural producers.

"The Minnesota Farmers Union has been working on this for about 10 years," says Thom Peterson, the organization's government relations director. "We saw the need for this. A lot of young farmers have told us that access to land is really a top issue and that it's hard to compete for land."

Under the legislation, which Dayton signed late Tuesday, May 30:

• Landowners receive a state income tax credit when they sell or rent land or other ag assets to beginning farmers. The credit equals 5 percent of the sale price, or 10 percent of the cash rent, or 15 percent of a cash share agreement.

• Beginning partners, in turn, must take a farm management course to qualify for the tax, which Peterson says is a good provision.

• The tax credit is effective in the 2018 tax year and has $12 million in funding for the 2020-2021 biennium

The Minnesota program is modeled after one in Nebraska, Peterson says. But unlike the Nebraska program, which only covers renting to a beginning farmer, Minnesota's new program includes selling to a beginning farmer, as well.

As many as 400 Minnesota farmers a year will be helped annually by the new program, according to some estimates.

The Minnesota Farmers Union is uncertain if the number will be that high. "But if it is, we'll be thrilled," Peterson says.

The successful push to win approval in Minnesota was helped greatly by strong support from a number of young and beginning farmers, Peterson says.

The Central Minnesota Young Farmers Coalition, which has members in nine counties, has been an active supporter.

"This bill offers a win-win solution for the future of farming in Minnesota," says Matthew Fitzgerald, a Glencoe, Minn., farmer and coalition co-founder. "This is also the first bill to include an incentive for the sale of farmland - making it a historic win."

Peterson also thanks legislators for their support.

"Now it's up to the farm groups to get the word out," he says.