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Minnesota Soybean Business

Non-partisan lobbying: MSGA does that

Written by Joe Smentek, MSGA executive director

Joe SmentekThe Minnesota Soybean Growers Association is a non-partisan membership organization. We say this often but never really drill down to what it means. Perhaps this is because being non-partisan can be ambiguous. At its base it means MSGA doesn’t endorse candidates or political parties.

Every year at Farmfest, MSGA welcomes both state and federal legislators of all party stripes into booth #620 to discuss policies affecting the lives of Minnesota farmers. Although 2019 isn’t election year, we look forward to meeting current and prospective legislators. After all, another pivotal election season is just around the corner.

While MSGA is non-partisan, our members are not. Many of our members serve on county and/or state party committees. Many are active in elections for one party or another. And our organization gets pushed by these directors; we are farmer-led. During the initial tariff announcements, then-President Michael Petefish heard from both sides. One side criticized MSGA – in very colorful words –for being President Trump.  The other side blasted us – in even more descriptive terms – for being too soft. When both sides are unhappy, you’re likely being very non-partisan.

Brad Hovel, the lone MSGA board member farming in the Second Congressional District, leans Republican. Regardless, he authored a letter-to-the-editor thanking Democratic Congresswoman Angie Craig for her support on biodiesel tax credit legislation. His op-ed was published, and Brad received grief around town and in his own home. But his letter turned into a farm visit from Rep. Craig. That visit led to her introducing the bipartisan Feed Emergency Enhancement During Disasters Act (FEEDD Act). The FEEDD Act will provide additional emergency flexibility to help with feed shortages during planting seasons with high levels of prevent plant due to extreme moisture or drought, like we face this year. A Republican farmer building relationships with a Democratic legislator to help farmers – now that is non-partisan.

During the 2019 legislative session, MSGA dared to dream big and notched legislative wins in every category on which we focus. One of our biggest accomplishments was securing funding for the Soy Innovation Campus (SIC) in Crookston. The SIC will be a large complex that will serve as an innovation center. The campus will house enough soybean crushing capacity to trigger new uses of soybeans while doing so at a scale that will relieve basis pressure felt in northern Minnesota, adding value to our soybeans. Senate Republican Chair Torrey Westrom included the SIC in his omnibus ag finance bill. The Walz administration then worked with budget numbers to ensure the targets included a budget number. Working across party lines to bring ag innovation to Minnesota– definitely non-partisan.

What we aim to do is simple: we move Minnesota soybean farmers forward, past party-lines. I attended a meeting recently with other membership organizations, and they posed a question: Do you do what members want, or what is best for soybean farmers? The answer around the table surprised me: We do what the members want so that we don’t lose members. MSGA takes a different approach.  Our farming board directors aim to serve the best interests of Minnesota’s nearly 28,000 soybean farmers, because we know memberships will follow these successes. We do not kowtow to outside interests, nor do we see policy priorities in blue or red, left or right. We work for Minnesota’s soybean farmers, and hope you will join us.

Working for all Minnesota soybean farmers – definitely non-partisan.

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