‘A huge success’: MSGA starts new conversations during annual Hill Visits

February 22, 2024 / Categories: Uncategorized

There’s a first time for everything.

As the nation’s longest-running state soybean advocacy group, a dozen directors from the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) met with a slew of state legislators for the first time during its annual Hill Visits in St. Paul on Feb. 21. For farmer leaders, the initial conversations offered a platform to explain to legislators the basics on MSGA’s mission and policy priorities.

“Our Hill Visits were a huge success,” MSGA President Bob Worth said. “Not only did we get to see both sides of the aisle a lot, but we got to see people we’d never seen before. We had lots of good feedback through these new conversations.”

In 2024, MSGA is working to build on – and protect – its policy wins from 2023 while continuing to improve the outlook for Minnesota’s 25,000 soybean farmers. And with over 30 one-on-one legislative meetings during its Hill Visits, MSGA spread its messaging to both sides of the aisle.

“We want to thank MSGA for their advocacy and support,” said Andrea Vaubel, Minnesota Department of Agriculture deputy commissioner. “We’re excited to work with you on opportunities at the Port of Duluth and the amazing inroads we’ve made in Morocco.

The push to B100

Biodiesel has been a big-ticket item for MSGA for two decades, beginning with the landmark move to B5 in 2005. This session, MSGA farmer leaders are encouraging any and all biodiesel implementation avenues, including the adoption of B100 (100% biodiesel) in state trucks, especially snowplows, through Optimus Technologies.

“We are drumming up support for B100,” said Jamie Beyer, who represents Minnesota on the American Soybean Association. “Farmers need to be part of the cutting carbon conversation; we’re part of the solution.”

Cities in states surrounding Minnesota have already started upgrading dozens of multi heavy-duty vehicles to B100 (100% biodiesel) to reach net-zero emission goals. Biodiesel is already cutting carbon in Minnesota; if the state wants to meet its environmental goals, it can continue to lead by adopting B100, MSGA Treasurer Ryan Mackenthun told Sen. Bruce Anderson.

“We already have the technology, and it’s reliable,” said Mackenthun, who farms in Brownton. “Biodiesel brings back value to rural Minnesota and our farmers.”

Talking shop

While on the Hill, MSGA highlighted the pressing need to continue addressing deer depredation. Farmers from across the state have reported substantial yield losses and damages totaling tens of thousands of dollars. In 2023, MSGA sought a bill that would assist Minnesota farmers whose operations and feed storage areas have been decimated by deer. Though the legislation didn’t pass, MSGA is continuing to urge legislators and state agencies to find solutions and assist affected operations.

“I’m on your team.” Rep. Paul Torkelson (left) meets with MSGA Directors Kyle Jore (middle) and Jeff Sorenson (right) in his St. Paul office during MSGA’s Hill Visits on Feb. 21, 2024.

“We really need the Legislature and DNR (Department of Natural Resources) to step up, realize there’s a problem and do something about deer depredation,” MSGA Director Brad Hovel, whose soybean crop in Cannon Falls has suffered considerable damage from deer, told Rep. Pam Altendorf. “It’s an issue that’s not going to go away.”

Though MSGA directors could “talk shop” all day, they ensured that before their meeting ended, they touched on MSGA’s priority areas, including protecting crop inputs, transportation and rural infrastructure and keeping farmers on the land despite land pressures from passed legislation.

“We want to see farmers stay on the land,” Jeff Sorenson, an ASA director, said during a meeting with Rep. Paul Torkelson. “That’s my goal, to pass down the farm to my son.”

For some MSGA directors, returning to the capital city felt like business as usual. On the flip side, Director Kyle Jore made his first appearance at the Capitol since grade school.

“It was a fun experience,” said Jore, who joined Sorenson throughout the day. “By the time we finished our last visit, I started to know my way around.”

In one of the final visits, Vice President Darin Johnson and ASA Director Jim Kukowski sat down with Rep. Paul Anderson, a fellow farmer and MSGA member.

“We’re all in this together,” Rep. Anderson said.

Prior to MSGA’s jam-packed day of meetings, the organization hosted its Legislative Reception at the Minnesota History Center. Despite multiple events occurring on the same night, more than 20 legislators, staffers and MDA leaders attended.

“We were thrilled by the turnout of our Legislative Reception,” Worth said. “I think this year’s Hill Visit showed that legislators are appreciating the work MSGA is doing on behalf of farmers.”

Due to a scheduling conflict, Gov. Walz was unable to visit with MSGA. However, the governor has invited growers for a March 8 meeting in the Governor’s Reception Room.

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