A winter storm warning across much of Minnesota did not stop a group of 13 soybean farmers from making their way to St. Paul Wednesday to kick off their first official Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) Hill Visit of the 2019 legislative session.
The group of Minnesota farmers started their morning with a priority and issues briefing, led by MSGA lobbyist Cory Bennett and MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek, as well as an update on the agriculture budget from Minnesota Department of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Andrea Vaubel.
“It was encouraging to see the additions to the ag budget,” said Jamie Beyer, current MSGA vice president who resides near Wheaton. “We used this as a conversation starter when visiting with legislators.”
Throughout the 33 legislative visits, much of the conversation focused on the current agriculture climate and what needs to be done to keep farmers on the land.
“Health insurance is one of the biggest costs for many farm families,” MSGA director Brad Hovel told Rep. Barb Haley, R-Red Wing. “For an average healthy family, the yearly cost is not sustainable, especially during these hard times.”
Hovel and Starbuck farmer Paul Freeman, two of the veterans in the group, teamed up with farmer Darin Johnson for the first couple visits. Johnson, whose family also owns a seed and trucking business near Wells, told legislators tax conformity is a big concern.
“With Minnesota currently at $25,000 per-year farm depreciation and the federal government at $1 million per-year, it makes the accounting side of farming very confusing,” Johnson told Haley. “Section 179 farm depreciation needs to be addressed.”
Other MSGA priority topics included buffer tax relief, property tax relief, funding for rural roads and bridges, as well as the new initiative – the Soy Innovation Campus.
“This proposed one-of-a-kind crush and biodiesel educational facility in Crookston would generate nearly $324 million to the local economy in northwest Minnesota, as well as lower the basis by an average of 10-to-20 cents per bushel.” Beyer said. “This area is a desert when it comes to soybean processing. It will be a great addition for our northern growers and the University of Minnesota-Crookston campus, but we need to make sure Minnesota is open for business.”
The group ended the day with their annual MSGA legislative reception, sponsored by Bayer and the Renville County Corn and Soybean Growers.
“Our livelihood depends on many of the decisions made at the Capitol,” said MSGA President Michael Petefish. “It’s a day away from the farm but it’s critical we’re here. We need to tell our story on how high health care costs, impaired roads, and lack of funding for mental health affects us, and our ability to farm, directly. If we don’t tell our story, then who will?”
The complete list MSGA’s legislative priorities can be found here.
A recap video of the day can be found here.
The 13 soybean farmers who attended the Hill Visit included:
- Jamie Beyer, Wheaton
- Kurt Krueger, Rothsay
- Tom Grundman, Osakis
- Michael Petefish, Claremont
- Cole Trebesch, Springfield
- Paul Freeman, Starbuck
- Brad Hovel, Cannon Falls
- Chris Hill, Brewster
- Darin Johnson, Wells
- Jim Kukowski, Stratahcona
- Andy Pulk, Wannaska
- Bob Lindeman, Brownton
- Pat Sullivan, Franklin