Minnesota Soybean Business

Engaged and energized: MSGA ready for 2024 legislative session

January-February 2024

Some legislative sessions are a slog to the finish line; others, a race that concludes with policy prizes for Minnesota farmers.

Because it’s the second year of the biennium, Minnesota’s compressed 2024 legislative session looks to be more of a sprint than a marathon.

“This is going to be a very, I think, fast-paced legislative session,” said MSGA lobbyist Cory Bennett, who works alongside his colleague, A.J. Duerr, to implement MSGA’s policy strategies on behalf of the board.

But a shorter session – which begins Feb. 12 and must end by May 20 – along with a looming election in November doesn’t make advocating any easier.

“I always find that the second year of the biennium is usually harder than the first,” Bennett said, “because there’s still a lot on the table for legislators to consider this legislative session, and they’re going to try to get that done in one less month than they normally have.”

Following the passing of a budget in the first year, the second year of a biennium is generally considered the policy-heavy session. And there’s  plenty of carry over legislation from 2023: Between the House and Senate, more than 6,000 bills were introduced in the Minnesota Legislature last session. Those bills, most of which aren’t relevant to agriculture, carry over this year. Some carry over bills related to biodiesel, solar on prime farmland, treated seed restrictions and pesticide management are firmly on agriculture’s radar.

“Every legislative session comes with its challenges and opportunities,” MSGA President Bob Worth said. “We’re going to be ready for those challenges, but we’re also going to try to take advantage of those opportunities as well. I think this session is going to have both of those.”

MSGA’s 2024 policy priorities include:

• Including biodiesel as part of low carbon fuel standard

• Paid Family Leave

• Nitrogen management

• Solar on prime farmland

• Deer depredation initiatives

• Tax relief

• Bonding (rural infrastructure)

• Water issues/soil management

• Value-added agriculture

• Invasive species

• Ditch mowing

• Rural health care

• Protecting against animal diseases

• Right to repair farm equipment

‘Great working relationships’

In early December, the state budget office released its budget surplus for the current biennium. Bennett expects the Legislature to debate on offering those funds back to taxpayers or reinvesting those dollars. A tax bill is on the table, and MSGA will continue advocating for agricultural tax relief.

MSGA Directors Jeff Sorenson (right) and Brad Hovel (middle) visit with Brown County farmer and Rep. Paul Torkelson (left) during the 2023 legislative session. MSGA looks to stay engaged with legislators throughout the upcoming session, which begins Feb 12.

“Whenever the Legislature talks about taxes, our members can know we’ll be talking about taxes as well on their behalf,” MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek said.

Bennett also predicts lawmakers will consider a bonding bill, which could positively impact rural infrastructure. However, the DFL’s one-seat majority in Senate and six-seat House advantage could complicate efforts to pass a bonding bill. MSGA is nonpartisan and works with both parties, committee members and the Walz administration to garner support for its policy priorities.

“We’ll be involved in those policy discussions on a daily basis to be visible and try to be as proactive as much as we can on some of this legislation,” Bennett said. “We have great working relationships with both sides and hope to continue moving in a positive direction in 2024.”

For more than 20 years, MSGA has defended against attacks on the state’s biodiesel mandate. That’s likely to continue this year, as lawmakers consider adopting a low carbon fuel standard. MSGA will be advocating in support of biodiesel and how it’s proven to lower carbon – right here, right now.

“We’ve seen the rise in renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel, and we know biodiesel is proven to have significant benefits to our environment and economy, so it’s important we continue urging our legislators to support biofuels,” said Worth, the lone farmer on the Clean Transportation Fuel Standard Work Group. “In greater Minnesota, there’s not much of a demand for electric vehicles. Biofuels are still part of the solution.”

MSGA’s leadership continuity has helped the organization’s presence and effectiveness in St. Paul. That cohesion was on display in 2023, when MSGA worked with Minnesota Farmers Union to establish a grain indemnity fund and supported legislation that raises the agricultural homestead credit to $3.5 million for assessment year 2024.

MSGA’s proactive position starts with a strong, farmer-led officer team working in collaboration with Smentek, who’s been in his position since 2018. Bennett and Duerr then take the board’s direction and work to execute MSGA’s priorities.

“That’s one of the keys to our success,” Worth said. “Not only do we have a very informative, engaged membership, but we have a fantastic board. And we have a very good staff working at MSGA.”

Bennett, who has worked with MSGA for nearly a decade, agreed.

“We work collaboratively, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for each other,” he said. “I think that kind of shows in the results MSGA has seen at the Legislature.”

MSGA advocates return to St. Paul Feb. 20-21 for the annual Legislative Reception and Hill Visits. The best way to stay informed of MSGA’s efforts at the Capitol this session is through joining the organization. MSGA members receive an exclusive weekly e-newsletter, the MSGA Bulletin, during the session, which features legislative updates from Bennett and MSGA directors. In addition, MSGA’s lobbying team holds a members-only legislative update call on Zoom each Friday morning throughout the session. During the calls, members receive legislative briefings and can participate in a Q&A session.

“We try to be as open and communicate as much as possible about the legislative process and what’s going on,” Bennett said. “We want our farmers to stay involved, stay engaged.”


Please add me to the Soybean Business Magazine list: