Association looking to better connect with its members
With more than 3,000 members, the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) is the nation’s largest soybean membership-based organization.
“Our members are the pillar of MSGA,” says MSGA Vice President Jamie Beyer, chair of the organization’s membership action team. “Without our members, we don’t have the resources to get our voices fully heard at the state and federal capitals. Everyone’s voice counts, now more than ever.”
In a down farm economy, the organization is undertaking a proactive approach to engaging with current and prospective members.
“We need to educate everyone,” says MSGA director Steve Brusven. “We’ve got to keep hammering home our mission, that joining MSGA puts money back in farmers’ pockets through advocacy at the legislative level.”
In advance of MSGA’s November board meeting, Jay Handler, president/CEO of Membership 180, visited MSGA’s headquarters in Mankato, Minn., to take a bold look at how the organization will increase its membership numbers, giving them a louder, more powerful voice in St. Paul and Washington D.C.
“The way MSGA is going to turn the tide is through action and everyone having a voice,” Handler told MSGA’s board of directors. “It’s not enough anymore to preach to farmers about why they should join; we need to communicate to farmers why they should invest in MSGA.”
Handler told the board wholesale changes aren’t necessary – just a tweak in messaging, he says. The organization, Handler believes, needs to further underscore MSGA’s numerous advocacy accomplishments at every opportunity. State and county board meetings, annual meetings, diners, fairs or parades; everyone affiliated with MSGA needs to get the message out.
“This organization has an incredible track record of fighting on behalf of farmers for more than half a century, and today’s MSGA is reaping the rewards of that,” Handler says. “What we need to do now is stop keeping our best secrets and legislative wins to ourselves and share MSGA’s successes any chance we can.”
MSGA can cite a list of legislative wins in recent years. MSGA has protected the B20 mandate, which goes into effect in May 2018. Biodiesel adds an estimated 63 cents value to every bushel of soybeans.
“The biodiesel movement is reason alone to join MSGA,” Handler says. “It’s an incredible legislative achievement that was jumpstarted by farmers from this very association, and is directly adding to farmers’ bottom line today.”
The organization fought for a two-year delay to the buffer bill and helped bring more clarity to the law. Although a two-year delay wasn’t implemented, farmers were granted an eight-month grace period if they complied with their local soil and conservation district. MSGA also won a delay on the Mowing & Haying Permit along state right-of-ways, and was at the forefront of a bill that reduced property taxes 40 percent for landowners who would’ve been hit by school referendums.
“This isn’t playing the fear card – it’s just a fact – but farmers might not be farming next year or the year after, if not for the issues MSGA is working on,” says Bob Worth, a Lincoln County farmer and MSGA and American Soybean Association director. “There’s a whole lot of value in joining MSGA.”