Minnesota Soybean Business

Capitol Conundrum: MSGA bracing for election-year politics

January-February 2022

The upcoming 2022 Minnesota Legislative Session could be compared to a wet harvest.

Toiling. Challenging. Stuck in neutral. Downright frustrating.

“The next legislative session comes with plenty of obstacles and barriers,” said Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) lobbyist Cory Bennett. “Between election year politics, having a divided government, and the House planning to remain mostly remote throughout 2022, MSGA will have its fair share of challenges to overcome.”

Bennett, who began lobbying for MSGA in 2015, says in addition to those challenges, the session will be shaped largely by several factors, including the biennium, a sizable budget surplus, bonding bill and redistricting.

“Being the second year (of the biennium), this is the shorter session of the two,” Bennett said. “The second year can almost be harder than the first because the Legislature has plenty to tackle, but with one less month to do so.”

Along with a shorter timeframe, Bennett says bills introduced during the first year of the biennium are automatically carried over to the second year. They do not need to be re-introduced.

“Legislators are going to be dealing with a significant number of bills introduced in 2021 that are still eligible to be enacted upon in 2022,” he said. “Between the House and Senate, there is nearly 5,000 to 6,000 bills being carried over that they will need to keep track of.”

The next big question going into the next session is whether there will be a supplemental budget due to the sizable budget surplus.

“Our Legislature and governor will have to prioritize how they utilize those dollars, especially in an election year,” Bennett said. “They will have to decide whether those dollars are strategically invested into specific areas, like education or agriculture, or will they take a different approach and go ahead with a tax relief bill. It could be one or the other, or a combination of the two.”

Setting the stage

2022 is also a bonding year, and Bennett envisions there will be one.

“I think there will be a bonding bill, and I think it will be significant,” Bennett said. “The bonding bill cannot be passed by each individual caucus. If they don’t have enough votes, it will not pass. They need the minority caucuses. So, what will sweeten the pot for some of those minority legislators in order to get one passed.”

The last key factor of the 2022 legislative session is redistricting – the process of mapping out where Minnesotans have migrated across the state according to the 2020 census.

“It is the responsibility of the Legislature to reflect the last census in their representation. Majority parties in both the House and Senate will be creating redistricting maps and re-drawing those lines across all 201 legislative districts,” said Bennett, who expects those maps to come out in late February.
Bennett said the House and Senate will then come together to negotiate and develop one map. The negotiations will likely be settled in court: In the past 60 years, the court system in Minnesota has assisted in redistricting all but once.

“With the metropolitan and regional growth, which includes cities like Mankato and Rochester, redistricting will certainly have an impact on rural Minnesota through loss of districts and seats,” Bennett said. “This is something MSGA will be paying special attention to.”

Cory Bennett (left) and A.J. Duerr (right) lead MSGA’s lobbying efforts in St. Paul.

Bennett will be joined by MSGA’s other lobbyist, A.J. Duerr, as the duo sets their eyes on the Jan. 31, 2022 legislative session start date.

Expecting the unexpected

While the Legislature has their own set of priorities for the coming year, MSGA is also looking at policies to protect or achieve, despite the anticipation for a unique and challenging year.

“There are several bills being carried over from 2021 that would negatively impact Minnesota’s soybean farmers and their use of specific ag chemicals,” MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek said. “It is critical we keep our eye on those bills and (prevent) what we would consider regulatory overreach.”

Along with these proposed bills, MSGA continues to advocate for Minnesota’s 20% biodiesel blending requirement, which enters its fifth season this summer.

“We go into every legislative session knowing we may need to protect biodiesel,” Smentek said. “This is something MSGA isn’t willing to lose, which means education and promotion around the Advanced Biofuel will always be on our priority list.”

Other key items for 2022 include promoting value-added soybean products and ongoing projects like the Ag Innovation Campus; potential appropriation of state surplus dollars into agriculture; and ensuring MSGA remains a voice in the discussion around farming and its impact on climate change.

“There is no doubt this session will entail many discussions centered around climate and climate-related legislation,” Smentek said. “MSGA will be fighting to be a part of those conversations and how agriculture can play a role in this hot button issue.”

Smentek says he’s prepared for these conversations, but knows the election year politics will impact how much gets done this session. Gov. Walz is up for reelection this November, and all 67 Senate seats and 134 Minnesota House of Representatives will be on the ballot. Although political observers caution that partisan gridlock could prevail in St. Paul in 2022, MSGA will leave no stone unturned.

MSGA President Mike Skaug speaks with Sen. Mark Johnson during MSGA’s 2019 Hill Visit. MSGA’s 2022 Hill Visit takes place March 22.

“Unfortunately, an election year means not much give and take from either side of the aisle,” Smentek said. “But protecting our soybean farmers from regulatory overreach or losing a market like biodiesel is just as significant and important.”

‘Power’ play

Even though MSGA has two lobbyists walking the halls in St. Paul, MSGA President and Beltrami farmer Mike Skaug urges his fellow farmers to continue staying informed and involved, starting with the Friday morning legislative update call.

“Every Friday morning during the legislative session, we offer an update call for members to hear directly from MSGA’s lobbyists and staff about what is happening at the Capitol,” he said. “This is a great way for members to be able to communicate effectively with representatives and senators on how specific legislation is impacting their farm.”

MSGA relies heavily on its members and their voice to run an effective advocacy strategy. Although only 10% of the state’s farmers are MSGA members, there’s strength in numbers at the state and federal levels.

“Having a lobbyist is a good thing, but the true power behind MSGA is our members,” Bennett said. “Our members are involved. They’re vocal, they keep in touch, and they keep in tune with what’s happening in St. Paul. That is the true power and the true messaging behind MSGA.”

Click here to learn more about MSGA, its policy priorities and to become a member of the nation’s first state soybean advocacy organization.


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