Capitol Connections: Minnesota farmers make MSGA-led visit to D.C.

Nine hundred and six miles. That is the distance from Minnesota’s state capital in St. Paul to the nation’s capital.

Each year, many Minnesotans make that trip to visit with legislators and soak up the atmosphere in Washington, D.C. However, for the last couple years, the pandemic and the events of Jan. 6, 2021, have limited access to Capitol Hill.

With restrictions mostly lifted, the farmer-led Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) was eager to get its boots on the ground to make a visit, build camaraderie and connect with legislators and trade leaders. The group was successful on fronts.

The MSGA officer team and Executive Director Joe Smentek, along with former President Mike Skaug, made the trip to Washington, D.C., this week for a rare MSGA-led Hill Visit.

“We haven’t had all four officers of MSGA together in D.C. for many years,” said Smentek, who travels to D.C. several times years on behalf of MSGA. “It was great to have our full officer team in Washington, D.C., to work together to talk to staffers for representatives and senators on federal policy issues.”

On the docket were legislative visits with staffers representing Sen. Tina Smith, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Congressman Tom Emmer, Congressman Brad Finstad and Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach.

Conversations consisted of state and federal policy , including the upcoming Farm Bill, funding for the Ag Innovation Campus (AIC), a push to increase federal truck weight limits and other topics concerning soybean farmers.

“The conversations were excellent,” MSGA President Bob Worth said. “Normally, senators and representatives have short amounts of time to talk, but this time we were allotted more time to talk to their staffers, which was great.”

Aside from the legislative visits, MSGA had the opportunity to visit with the American Soybean Association in their new office to discuss federal policies affecting Minnesota soybean farmers.

“It was great to get the officer team to the new ASA D.C. office to help strengthen our working relationship with our national partner,” Smentek said.

Opportunities abound

Trade was another topic of conversation during the groups visit to Washington D.C. After all, soybeans are Minnesota’s top agricultural export, totaling more than $2 billion each year. And with the recent shipments out of the Port of Duluth, the group visited with the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Bob Worth presents a Minnesota-themed gift during a visit to the Global Taiwan Institute in Washington, D.C.

“It was exciting to see the opportunities the St. Lawrence Seaway could have, especially to expand our sales of commercial soybeans and specialty soybeans that will be processed at the Ag Innovation Campus to new customers and new countries,” said Skaug, who also chairs the AIC.

Along the lines of trade, the group visited with the Taiwan Global Institute and the British Embassy. Next week, MSGA will join the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council in finalizing a purchasing agreement with Taiwanese leaders.

During their visit, MSGA farmer leaders also had the opportunity to tell their story of sustainability.

“It was great to be tell our story and to tout Minnesota’s efforts to continue to be sustainable through the different practices we do on our farm,” Worth said.

To wrap up their Washington D.C. trip, the group had the opportunity to tour the U.S. Capitol. For Skaug, who hadn’t advocated in D.C. since 2019, the trip made up for lost time.

“It was a great opportunity to be able to travel to D.C. with the current officer team,” Skaug said. “Although I didn’t get to travel to D.C. during my presidency due to COVID-19, I am glad I got to be part of the conversations, and see the current team do an outstanding job.”

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