MN AG EXPO checks all the boxes

More than 100 exhibitors, 1,500 attendees and a packed lineup of panelists and guests speakers participated in the 2018 MN AG EXPO, Minnesota’s premier indoor agricultural exhibit that concluded Thursday in Mankato, Minn.

“Every year MN AG EXPO is a chance for Minnesota’s agricultural community to come together, exchange thoughts and engage in policy discussion,” said Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) President Michael Petefish. “This year was no exception; it was a resounding success. As MSGA president, I enjoyed talking with members and non-members about what an investment in our organization can do for farmers.” 

Wednesday’s schedule featured a highly anticipated appearance from the DieselSellerz and a plethora of speaker sessions. Topics ranged from pollinators to the move to B20 and the future of renewable fuels. 

“Beekeepers become like modern agriculture – it’s volume,” said Dan Whitney, president of the Minnesota Honey Producers Association. “You gotta have the high volume…It’s an honor and a privilege to put my bees on someone’s land.”

The renewable fuels discussion centered around Minnesota’s role in the burgeoning renewable industry. 

“There’s a massive transition to renewables in Minnesota,” said Mike Bull, director of policy and public affairs for the Center for Energy and Environment. 

Later that night, at MSGA’s Beano & Vino Casino Night, the annual MSGA fundraiser, Petefish took one for the team when he agreed to shave his beard, head and eyebrows for the MN Soy Political Action Committee (PAC). Petefish raised $4,000, and was unrecognizable when he walked through the trade show the next morning. He joked he might need to convince custom agents of his identity when he travels next week on vacation. 

“Anything for MSGA,” he said with a smile. “I probably needed a cut and a shave anyway.” 

Thursday’s speaker sessions began with a market’s update from financial analyst Al Kluis, who forecasted a seasonal rally on commodities.

“My idea on soybeans is simple,” Kluis told the crowd. “Turn them into cash. Get the cash and then keep the cash.” 

Other Thursday panels delved into legislative activities at the state and federal levels.

During a discussion on the farm bill, the three-person panel discussed the importance of the bill to all Americans, particularly the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which accounts for nearly 80 percent of the bill.

“There are 39 programs in (the farm bill) and what we’re going to see is defending what we got,” said Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap. “We’re really talking about a food security bill more than anything else.” 

The farm bill panel was followed by a gubernatorial panel that featured five candidates hoping to replace Gov. Mark Dayton in 2019. All five candidates had common ground, supporting a continuation of last year’s bill bringing some Minnesota farmers up to 40 percent in property tax relief. 

“We need to make sure (farmers) have the ability to do their job,” said Democratic candidate Chris Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul. 

United Soybean Board CEO Polly Ruhland delivered the closing remarks during a keynote speaker session with National Corn Growers Association Chris Novak. Ruhland’s speech discussed how the national soybean checkoff works for farmers by creating new uses and increasing demand. 

“Supporting farmers is our mission, as is the soybean checkoff,” Rohland said. “Demand for soybeans is strong, but we have to continue to evolve and deliver what our customers need.”