Being from the northern portion of the state, I have never had the chance to make it to Farmfest. For those that do not know, Farmfest is a large agriculture trade show near Morgan, Minn. Minnesota Soybean, which is made up of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, had a large tent filled with activities and giveaways for children and adults.
Most importantly, our tent at Farmfest served as a platform for legislators to visit and attendees to ask questions.
As I was working MSGA’s membership booth, I realized many farmers had questions on the importance of membership and the difference between checkoff dollars and membership. It was rewarding to be able to explain that membership allows MSGA director and lobbyists to fight on their behalf for farm-friendly legislation that protects their freedom to operate. Membership allows us to have an influence with state politicians on issues like buffers, WOTUS and trade.
Checkoff dollars cannot be spent on lobbying or public policy. By federal law, the soybean checkoff is spent strictly on education, research and promotion of soybeans. In Minnesota, this includes research on new soybean varieties, opening new markets here and abroad, finding new uses for soybeans, educating consumers on soy consumption and promoting the value and quality of Minnesota soybeans.
Farmfest is also a place for state politicians to visit with farmers and MSGA leaders to learn more about agricultural issues and concerns that affect production and profitability.
I had the honor to meet Lt. Gov. Tina Smith while working in our booth. She had stopped by to meet with Minnesota soybean farmers and hear our concerns and thoughts on specific topics. Gov. Mark Dayton’s buffer bill has been the topic of discussion for some time and it was valuable to be able to voice my concern while putting a face to agriculture and the soybean industry. Making connections and having those conversations can go a long way.
I also had the opportunity to visit with Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Albert Lea, Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, and Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth. We discussed farming issues and how over-regulation affects our industry. I am fighting to make sure the next generation has the right to farm.
Thank you to all state legislators that had a chance to stop by our tent and meet with our farmers and farmer leaders. We appreciate the time you took and conversations that were had.
As Farmfest 2015 has come to a close, I look back on the conversations and connections that were made, and I appreciate the chance to represent MSGA and Minnesota soybean farmers from all across the state. I am looking forward to next year.
Theresia Gillie is a soybean farmer from Hallock, Minn. She is Vice President of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and is chair of the Advocacy action team. Theresia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.