A farmer friend emailed us yesterday:
Jean Wagenius has been a friend of family farmers in the last two years(and for that matter for a whole lot of years that she has served in the legislature) that she chaired the environment and agriculture finance committee on a number of issues, naming two of which are pollinators and “Forever Green”. She has been a strong defender of environmental review and gets that rural citizens should have rights to have a say about air and water quality in their community. Republican leadership acts like they are going to be bi-partisan but actions are louder than words.
The note was followed by a link to the Star Tribune article, House GOP bounces Minneapolis’ Wagenius from longtime post on natural resources committee. The Republican majority had split off agriculture finance into a separate committee, then refused to allow the veteran Minneapolis legislator serve on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
The headline doesn’t tell it all: the DFL House Caucus and Minority Leader-elect Paul Thissen had asked that she be the minority lead on the committee, as is the established custom. To preserve comity, custom and usage is to allow the minority caucus to pick its leadership on committees.
This article is reposted from TCDP media partner Bluestem Prairie. Check out the links below for other recent Bluestem Prairie stories:
Our farmer friend followed his first email up with a second message after we said that we were mulling over what to say:
Glad to hear you are doing a piece regarding this. Interesting to note while reviewing some notes from the past two years that Jean was chair(2014 and 2015) the AGRI(Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation) fund increase from $641,422 for 2012 and $2,301,000 for 2013 under a Republican controlled House and Senate and while Jean was chair the AGRI fund increase[d] to $10,235,000 for 2014 and $10,235,000 for 2015.
As you remember Hamilton was really mad when two years ago Jean was also Ag. Finance Chair while she was also the environment chair.
Indeed, we did remember that spat, as we wrote about it at the time, noting in Open letter to Rod Hamilton: quit whining about Minneapolis & introduce some pro-rural bills, that unlike Rep. Hamilton, Wagenius actually owns some farmland. The acreage in Douglas County–near where Wagenius’ husband was raised–isn’t big, but then, neither is that owned (but not farmed) by Speaker-elect Daudt in Isanti County.
Earlier, in December 2012, we’d noted that Representative Rod Hamilton [was] to defend rural Minnesota against his own worst fears.
And as our farmer’s friend’s notes revealed, Wagenius’ tenure as chair of the hybrid committee didn’t harm rural Minnesota. Instead, it produced sound policy and increased funding.
It’s also telling that the last two times we saw her were at the Farmers Union convention and in Montevideo at an October meeting about pollinator policy. She didn’t do any talking at the gathering, but rather listened to the conservationists and pheasant hunting advocates who see the need for healthy habitat.
Daudt’s autocratic decision to bounce a wise and experienced legislator doesn’t bode well from our prespective here in Chippewa County.
But perhaps more troubling is the tendency of media to accept the notion that rural Minnesota is a monolith–that we speak with one voice and totally agree with the notion that environmentalism is a “metro-centric” concept feared by the horny-handed tillers of the soil.
It’s the same sort of public affairs-style messaging that would tell us that the citizens who came to the capitol in 2013 from Southeastern Minnesota to demand regulation of the frac sand mining industry were somehow “metro.” And that the citizens of the area would suddenly gain “empathy” for mining on the Range (as if the concerns of Southeastern Minnesota residents were but a proxy war for PolyMet).
It’s the same sort of arrogance that insists we ignore those Stevens County residents asking the Citizens Board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to hear their comments and concerns about the Baker Dairy–and that then insists that a 320-acre sustainable farm in Big Stone County isn’t “real ag.“
It’s fueled by a DFL which proved unable to speak during this year’s campaigns about sound environmental legislation passed in the last session–thereby allowing Republicans and their corporate allies to brand concerns about clean water and air, healthy soil and habitat as “metro-centric.”
Representative Wagenius serves a House District in Minneapolis–but her insights into policy and legislative memory serve us all. Let’s hope that the Caucus can grow a spine on talking about environmental concerns as a common issue statewide.
Photo: Jean Wagenius (lower left) and family members.