With the Minnesota state legislative session ending Monday, May 20, at midnight, it’s looking like a final budget will not be agreed upon before adjournment. This means the differences between the budgets and policies proposed by the House, the Senate, and Governor Tim Walz will likely be negotiated behind closed doors by just a few top leaders. A special legislative session will be required once these deals are made.
It’s critical that our legislative process is transparent, accessible to the public, and serves our communities and the land.
Take Action Now: Tell our state leaders that negotiating public policy behind closed doors that impacts our communities is not an option. When this happens, all too often corporate interests get prioritized before the public good.
Livestock farmers and rural residents who are members of the Land Stewardship Project have been organizing this legislative session to strengthen, not weaken, our rights and our land. Our priorities have included protecting our right to meaningfully engage in public comment periods on proposed large-scale protects, our right to free speech, and our right to healthy land, safe drinking water and clean air.
Meanwhile, negotiations taking place behind closed doors are short-circuiting the democratic process. For example, on Saturday night, after private meetings between the Walz administration and House and Senate legislative leaders, the Agriculture Finance Conference Committee adopted a measure to the Omnibus Agriculture Finance Bill that weakens the definition of pasture in a way that may benefit the operators of large feedlots. (Read a blog on the original bill language: Don’t Muddy the Waters: Stop Trampling on the Definition of ‘Pasture‘.)
What makes it even worse is that according to Senate rules, because it deals with pollution and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency regulations, this provision is supposed to be in the Environment and Natural Resources Bill, not the Ag Finance Bill.
Not only did legislators break the rules by putting this provision in the wrong bill, it was not available to the public until less than an hour before the vote. Proposed by a producer that has repeatedly violated feedlot regulations, this provision allows a feedlot to operate and be regulated as a pasture for 90 days during the growing season to respond to an undefined “extraordinary situation.” This provision was never given a public hearing, and so there were no opportunities for public engagement and for livestock farmers to provide input.
Something as important as the definition of what constitutes a “pasture” or “feedlot” should not be altered with only two days left in the session in a conference committee that allows no opportunity for public review and comment. What makes this even more extraordinary is that with literally hours left in the session, this issue gets so much time and attention while all of the budget issues are left unresolved.
This sets a bad precedent: our rights and the needs of our communities cannot be negotiated away behind closed doors, by a few people, in a way that breaks the rules of the legislative process. When decisions are made behind closed doors and do not follow the legislative process, big interests benefit at the expense family farmers, rural communities, and the land.
We know that decisions about us, made without us, don’t work for us.
There are so many critical pieces of legislation still up in the air, including a provision that would limit the public comment period on the environmental assessment worksheets of large-scale proposals, an anti-free speech provision that would create two new felonies for peaceful climate justice protesters, and more. With a family farm crisis, a rural healthcare crisis, and climate change more present than ever, we need bold action and these proposals move us far in the wrong direction.
- Follow the legislative process.
- No negotiating our rights away behind closed doors.
- Serve the people of Minnesota and the land, not special interests.