Minnesota farmer-leaders returned to the business of legislative engagement during a March 1 visit to a bustling Capitol as part of the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) semiannual Hill Visits in Washington, D.C.
“We had a lot of good, constructive conversations with our federal legislators on both sides of the aisle,” Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) President Bob Worth said. “We received a lot of support, and I think our team felt this was one of the best Hill Visits we’ve had.”
For the first time since prior to the pandemic, walking the halls of the Capitol felt close to normal again for farmers and legislators alike. Security restrictions within the Capitol have relaxed somewhat, and advocacy organizations and student groups have returned in droves.
“It’s just fun to see everyone again,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said during a meeting with Minnesota farmers.
Worth was joined by MSGA Vice President Darin Johnson and six of Minnesota’s seven ASA directors (Redwood County farmer George Goblish was unable to attend). The directors divided into two groups and met with members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation to discuss ASA’s 2023 policy priorities, which include:
• Advance Soy in 2023 Farm Bill Development
- Support an on-time, sufficiently funded, meaningful and comprehensive Farm Bill that addresses ASA priorities, including:
- Protecting crop insurance
- Improving the farm safety net for soybeans
- Growing investments in the promotion of U.S. commodities globally
- Enhancing access and continuing the voluntary, incentive-based, flexible approach to conservation programs
- Promoting new market opportunities through research, rural development, and nutrition
• Improve EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard for soy-based biofuels
- Biofuels: Support higher renewable volume obligation targets for biomass-based diesel in the EPA proposed Renewable Fuel Standard rule for 2023-2025
- Feedstock Availability: Ensure soy remains an eligible feedstock in renewable fuel opportunities
• Impact of the WOTUS Rule
- Consider efforts to improve the Biden administration’s WOTUS rule so it works for farmers
Many legislators wanted to speak about ongoing tensions with China. Although soybean farmers have opened up new markets in recent years, China remains far and away the top purchaser of U.S. soybeans. In 2022, the U.S. exported about $15 billion worth of soybeans to China. In Minnesota, roughly one in three rows of soybeans is shipped to soybeans, ASA Director Michael Petefish told Rep. Pete Stauber.
“We need China from an agriculture perspective,” Petefish said. “It’s important that we maintain that market.”
Petefish and fellow Director Jamie Beyer also spoke with Rep. Stauber about MSGA’s efforts to increase grain exports from the Port of Duluth, along with the Farm Bill and pesticide regulations.
“I want you farming, not dealing (with regulations),” Stauber said. “We need to get back to basics.”
‘Right there with you’
Worth, MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek and ASA Director Adam Guetter visited with House Committee Member Rep. Angie Craig about the Farm Bill and her ongoing support for biodiesel. In a meeting with Sen. Tina Smith, growers thanked the senator for introducing the Expanding Agricultural Exports Act, which is estimated to boost agricultural exports by $7.4 billion through doubling funding for the advertising programs of agricultural goods in foreign countries. The bill would double authorized funding levels for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program to $400 million and $69 million.
“Additional support for these programs is critical,” ASA Director Jim Kukowski said.
Immediately following her visit with MSGA, Sen. Smith passed on her takeaways during a Senate Ag Committee meeting. Click here to watch Sen. Smith’s questions, which begin at the 1 hour, 22-minute mark of the hearing.
In the day’s final visit, Beyer, Petefish, Johnson and ASA Director Chris Hill visited in a private room in the Capitol with Sen. Klobuchar, who could become the next Senate Ag Committee chair following current Chair Debbie Stabenow’s recent announcement that she won’t seek reelection in 2024. Farmers and Sen. Klobuchar found common ground on several topics, from crop insurance to renewable fuels to a shared hope for an early spring back home in Minnesota.
“I’m right there with you on biodiesel,” the senator said.
Prior to Hill Visits, ASA held the first portion of its board meeting. The board received a lay of the legislative land in D.C. from ASA’s policy team; updates on the ongoing chlorpyrifos lawsuit; news from the soybean checkoff via the United Soybean Board; and heard from House and Senate Ag Committee leaders, who outlined their priorities for the Farm Bill, which expires later this year. The committees have their work cut out for them, House Ag Committee Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson admitted.
“I’m interested in looking at ways to improve crop insurance,” Rep. Glenn Thompson said. “Crop insurance is reliable, timely and predictable.”
During Thursday’s board meeting, Petefish, who served as MSGA president from 2017-19, relayed his takeaways with his fellow ASA directors.
“Everyone we met with was extremely receptive toward having a Farm Bill on time,” he said.