Theresia Gillie

Freeman: Positioning on Issues Key to Success

Paul Freeman

Paul Freeman, MSGA Vice President

How Minnesota Soybean Growers Association positions itself on issues aids in its success at being the go-to-source for sound information on soybeans and agriculture. MSGA has been around for more than 50 years, and our current strategic plan sets the path to have a strong presence into the future. Maintaining a position of relevance makes it important to seek the high road when taking positions on issues.

I recall in my Natural Resource Conservation course at college you cannot win an emotional argument with your emotion. Everyone has a right to their own emotions and beliefs. The proper response to an emotional argument is with facts and figures.

Since my college days, facts and figures have become abundant enough to flood both sides of an argument. Now, the proper response is applied knowledge explained in simple and logical terms. To build trust we needed to explain why what we do is safe for our families, future generations and the environment. Also I have learned it is alright to insert some emotion because one needs to substantiate their commitment. And often the issues do affect where we live and what we do.

To point out the short comings of low-road paths, I will point to three types of positions that failed. First is arrogance; I saw this play out during the gulf oil spill. One of the first British Petroleum press releases stated they did not need any government money to take care of the problem, did not explain the issue or offer solutions and simply stated British Petroleum was bigger than government. Later, their CEO complained he wasn’t able to sail his yacht as much as he wanted, he soon got his wish.

Second the sky is falling/emotional ploy. The Humane Society of United States (again not to be confused with the local humane societies) runs commercials of a starving dog. The problem is when one looks at what they spend their money on, their dog is still starving. Tomorrow does come and people get tired of this type of argument.

Third is the bully. Chipotle has mastered this on their website, showing a cow that blows up if it isn’t raised a certain way. Food fairy-tails are not productive. Why is it a reoccurring theme that we should trust our lunch to a bully?

Attacking other’s views and negative positions may produce short term reactions. However we believe our industry and the general public is smarter than that. Offering positive progress and long-term solutions is agriculture’s heritage.

Paul Freeman is a soybean farmer from Starbuck. He is Vice President of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and is the chair of the Advocacy action team, which is made up of 12 MSGA directors. Paul can be reached at

Read more blogs by Paul Freeman here.