MSGA protecting priorities in final days of 2024 legislative session

While legislative leaders are managing expectations and negotiating policy details on a supplemental budget bill, the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) is taking a protective stance in the waning days of the 2024 legislative session to defend the interests of the state’s more than 25,000 soybean farmers.

“We’re still trying to earn wins for this year and limit any damage to farming in Minnesota,” MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek said. “That’s our top priority.”

MSGA continues monitoring environmental policies related to drain tiles and updating the Public Waters Inventory (PWI).

“We are working hard to make sure the PWI is updated,” said Smentek, who testified earlier in the session on MSGA’s position on clarifying the PWI. “We also want to stop the drain tile registration proposal – that’s a big issue for our farmers.”

On Friday, May 10, the House passed the Omnibus Agriculture Supplemental Appropriations Bill. Items of MSGA interest featured in the bill include:

  • $300,000 to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) for soil health equipment grants for southeast Minnesota
  • $3 million to MDA for nitrate treatment in southeast Minnesota
  • $233,000 to the Department of Health for the private well drinking water program
  • Extends an expiring 40 cent/ton fertilizer fee. Specifies that until June 30, 2025, MDA must continue depositing this fee revenue in the Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council (AFREC) account. After that date, would require MDA to deposit the 40 cent/ton fertilizer fee revenue in a new private drinking water assistance account created in a subsequent section
  • Beginning in 2026, appropriates proceeds from the 40 cent/ton fertilizer fee to MDA to award aid payments to community health boards
  • Requires MDA to convene stakeholders and develop a report regarding the potential establishment of a state carbon credit market for Minnesota farmers. Requires MDA to submit the report to the legislature by Feb. 1, 2025
  • Requires MDA to convene and consider the recommendations of a panel of outside experts before approving a pesticide registrant’s application for an emergency and experimental use pesticide product

On May 13, the bill proceeded to a conference committee comprising leaders from the agriculture, energy and commerce committees to work out the differences between the House and Senate bills (the Senate Ag Committee passed its own version in April, which included $50,000 toward studying deer and elk depredation).

Typically, in even-numbered years, lawmakers work toward passing bonding bills to fund construction projects. Democrats unveiled a $330 million plan to fund local projects and $600 million for state agencies. However, bonding bills require 60% support in both the House and Senate, and Republicans are leveraging their seats to their advantage. With each passing day before the session’s May 20 adjournment, a bonding bill becomes less likely. As a reminder: lawmakers aren’t required to pass any legislation this year after passing a $72 billion, two-year budget in the 2023 session.

MSGA’s lobbying team will have boots on the ground throughout the weekend to close out the session.

“We’ve worked hard this session to maintain wins from previous sessions and make progress on other issues,” MSGA President Bob Worth said. “It hasn’t been the most favorable legislative environment, but we’re protecting our farmers every way we can.”

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