Sen. Kathy Sheran, District 19, stopped by the Minnesota Soybean office Friday, Sept. 26, to talk all things soybeans, but by day’s end, it was clear she had one important topic on her mind — transportation.
Sheran met with Minnesota Soybean staff to better understand the challenges Minnesota soybean farmers, particularly southern Minnesota soybean farmers, have with getting their crop to market.
“In the Midwest as a whole, the big picture is that we can’t get containers but we grow all the food,” said Sam Ziegler, Director of Marketing Programs for Minnesota Soybean.
Ziegler called to attention the opportunities for Mankato business, both agricultural and non-agricultural, to benefit from a local shipping hub, one in which railroads could import as well as exports containers to the region.
“Rail is causing a lot of troubles for farmers these days,” Ziegler said. “We need to look at additional avenues for our farmers to ship their crop.”
Sheran said the topic of increasing rail capacity is nothing new to her as she has engaged with ADM about their rail situation and the need for the bridge over Highway 14 to be expanded. But the idea of a central hub in Mankato that would benefit the entire region was intriguing.
While non-committal, Sheran did shed some light on how important it is to engage many parties in the discussion.
“You’ve got to get the people who are restricted by this particular box involved in the process,” she said.
Sheran said the impact of agriculture on the Mankato economy is clear and acknowledged what additional rail capacity could do for the region.
“Defining ourselves as the ag center of Minnesota is really important,” she said of Greater Mankato Growth’s mission for the region. “Once it is claimed, I think the identity will be assumed because we’ve always been an ag economy.”
From the railroads to the roadway
“You’re talking to your biggest fan in terms of raising transportation funding,” Sheran said. “I think it is the No. 1 priority for the next session.”
Sheran warned that other pressures will serve as a distraction to the transportation issue, which she says has been abandoned for too long. Sheran said it is also important for the entire state to realize the seriousness of the infrastructure needs of Minnesota and not make it out to be a metro vs. rural debate.
“If farmers want to make a difference, endorse and work for candidates who will raise revenue for transportation, she said.
GMOs rising to forefront at Capitol
Dr. Paul Meints, Director of Research for Minnesota Soybean, and Joe Smentek, Director of Environmental Affairs, also discussed GMO labeling with Sen. Sheran.
“We are objecting to state-level labeling,” Smentek told the senator. “We aren’t objecting to federal labeling.”
Sheran wanted to better understand why there was a need for GMO labeling and why the public needed to know a product contained GMO foods.
“There is no evidence that says food should be labeled for safety issues,” Meints said. “We’re trying to ease the fear mongering that is happening with GMOs.”
Smentek also discussed some of the environmental issues with buffers noting that there is a great deal of confusion on which bodies of water require 50-foot buffers. He reminded her that most ditches do not require a 50-foot buffer and that environmental groups may try to confuse the issue.
After the meeting Smentek said it is important to have these types of meetings with legislators to make sure they understand the good work farmers are doing and to understand our legislative priorities.