Mike’s Message: A Capitol Closeup

Written by MSGA President Mike Skaug

The Minnesota Legislature is on recess this week for Easter, and legislators are back in their home districts visiting with constituents. When the session resumes on Monday, April 18, much work remains to achieve the people’s business before the Legislature adjourns on May 23, including addressing a record $9.25 billion budget surplus. As our lobbyist Cory Bennett often says, “No two legislative sessions are created equal,” and that’s certainly been the case this year.

As president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, I can assure you our farmer-leaders, staff and lobbying team have been hard at work throughout the session, pounding the pavement to achieve our 2022 policy goals for our members and the state’s 27,000 soybean farmers.

Last month, MSGA sent a group of 11 volunteers from across Minnesota to our state capital for the return of in-person Hill Visits. Prior to this event, our board of directors from 42 organized counties review issues that are important to growers throughout Minnesota. These issues are debated and chosen to be included in our resolution packet. We also select several that pertain to our needs during this year legislative session. Our growers brought to our elected officials in St. Paul a list of those priorities for budget consideration. Those priorities included: rural infrastructure, biodiesel, The Ag Innovation Campus, tax relief, drought relief and protection of pesticides. We also pressed upon legislators the need to address supply chain issues, which have caused our input costs to skyrocket. We understand their options are limited to deal with this crisis; nonetheless, it’s important to articulate the pressure we’re facing and the ripple effect those price increases will have on Minnesota’s economy.

MSGA President Mike Skaug speaks with Sen. Julie Rosen about MSGA’s 2022 priorities, including the Ag Innovation Campus, during Hill Visits on March 22, 2022

Our farmer-directors, Executive Director Joe Smentek and lobbyists have all participated in the advocacy process. With agricultural land values continue to increase, raising the ag homestead exemption to $2.5 million has been another big policy priority this session. In March, MSGA Secretary Ryan Mackenthun was the only farmer to testify in support of the bill – sponsored by Sen. Bill Weber – which could provide farmers millions of dollars in property tax relief. We’ve also testified in support of the Ag Innovation Campus. MSGA is seeking additional state and federal support for this farmer-led project, which has endured unprecedented construction cost increases due to the ongoing pandemic. The AIC construction continues this spring, and we appreciate the bipartisan support this first-of-its-kind facility has received and we’re hopeful we’ll receive additional funding come out of the Legislature this session.

Advocating for ag-friendly policy is hard work, but our trained and experienced grower-volunteers look forward to the chance to sit in the offices of our elected officials and discuss details of these priorities. Several visits by our volunteers and lobbying group over the years have earned us credibility with lawmakers. Through proactive advocacy, we have earned a seat at the table in St. Paul and Washington, D.C. We respect hearing difficult sides of an issue and relay the grower’s opinion to both sides of the aisle. Agriculture contributes 30% toward Minnesota’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while the state’s budget expenses to agriculture accounts for less than 1% annually. We must continue to stay engaged with our legislature and ensure accurate information for lawmaking decisions.

It may not feel like it outside, but spring is here. Planting is just around the bend, and optimism abounds for MSGA as we mark 60 years of speaking up for Minnesota farmers. If you’re a member, thank you for your support! If you’re interested in joining, please visit mnsoybean.org/msga and sign-up today. Whether you’re a longtime producer, retired, a young farmer or an agribusinesses, we have a membership option for you. Together, we can continue moving agriculture forward and boost your bottom lines.

From my family to yours, Happy Easter!

Mike Skaug farms in Beltrami with his wife, DeAnn, and their son, Ryan.

Follow The Conversation