Our 2024 legislative priorities
In 2023, we took advantage of an unprecedented opportunity to support the state’s waters, wildlife and communities, making progress on every single one of our legislative goals. For a few of our most pressing priorities, that meant establishing a foundation for a follow-up; something to come back to and build upon.
It’s now time to finish what we started.
FMR will be at the Capitol during the 2024 legislative session, working with partners, legislators and experts to advocate for policies that protect and restore the Mississippi River. While most of the legislative faces remain the same, one dynamic has shifted significantly since last year: the state’s budget situation.
After working with a record $17.6 billion surplus during the 2023 session, Minnesota Management and Budget is projecting a much more modest surplus for the current fiscal year — while warning of a possible deficit to come.
But opportunities remain. We’re optimistic lawmakers will see the value in continuing to support some of these urgent environmental issues.
Here’s a rundown of what FMR will be working on this session:
Invasive carp are on the metro Mississippi River’s doorstep. Twice in the past year, the DNR announced unprecedented carp catches in southern Minnesota— 30 near Winona followed by 410 just a little further downstream.
We need a deterrent to protect our waters, and we need it sooner rather than later.
If we allow invasive carp to establish breeding populations in the Mississippi River and all the waters it connects, it will harm ecosystems and the communities the river supports. And managing established populations of invasive carp? That will likely cost millions of dollars a year.
This session, we’ll be urging lawmakers once more to fund a bioacoustic fish fence (or BAFF) at Lock and Dam 5 near Winona, and at a lower cost than previous estimates.
We’ll also be urging the DNR to support funding for a deterrent this session. The agency’s recently updated Invasive Carp Action Plan outlines another 18 months (or more) of information gathering, discussion and planning.
We think the DNR needs to move with more urgency. The longer decision-makers wait to take action, the more likely we’ll cross a point of no return with invasive carp.
For the health of the river — and all Minnesota’s bodies of water — we need to bring down emissions in both the transportation and agriculture sectors. That can be achieved with one sound policy: a Clean Transportation Standard.
Building off of the work started last session, legislators have an opportunity to put the state on the road to a low-carbon transportation sector by 2050, and at the same time, dramatically cut climate emissions and water pollution from agriculture.
What are we asking legislators to do? Pass a bill directing state agencies to develop a Clean Transportation Standard through state rulemaking. This policy will dramatically speed the transition vehicle electrification and reduce the use of gasoline and ethanol. Incentivizing farmers to grow winter oilseeds for low-carbon biofuels would also help restore soil and water.
The sooner decision-makers take the next step, the sooner our climate and our waters start to benefit.
When it comes to grants for businesses that work with clean-water crops, demand has quickly outpaced supply. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has received more applications than it’s able to fund for the Developing Markets for Continuous Living Cover Crops grants program. And those organizations that have already been awarded funds (a maximum of $50,000) could make even bigger leaps with additional support.
This session, we’re advocating for a third consecutive year of funding for the grants program. These investments will open the door for more Minnesota organizations to get involved with clean-water crops, helping them to take root more quickly. The more acres of these crops we see growing in Minnesota, the cleaner our water gets.
There is gathering momentum behind more sustainable agricultural practices. New winter oilseeds, in particular, are ready to slingshot ahead in the sustainable fuels space. It’s important we don’t slow down now, so we can get to a healthier river and cleaner transportation faster.
We’re urging lawmakers to once again support the University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative’s research and commercialization efforts with clean-water crops by providing funding that will:
- Bridge a critical equipment and facilities gap, making it easier to get quality seeds to growers and scale up supply chains
- Help researchers collect the in-field data needed to answer pressing questions around things such as pollinator impacts, and work with federal agencies to reduce risk for farmers
The “big brown spot” will continue to send nitrates, sediment and other pollutants into our rivers, lakes and streams until clean-water crops are planted on millions of acres in the state. By laying the groundwork now with strategic investments, we enable some of Forever Green’s most promising crops to quickly flourish in Minnesota’s farm economy.
We all benefit from community oversight of the biggest, most important agency for pollution. It’s long past time we bring it back.
For decades, the public had a guaranteed way to weigh in on major environmental permitting decisions thanks to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizens Board. That changed in 2015, when the board was egregiously dismantled and the public shut out of a critical part of the environmental review process.
FMR and partners are once again urging lawmakers to pass legislation that would not only revive public oversight of major MPCA decisions through the creation of a Community Board, but also ensure fair representation from all of Minnesota’s communities, including tribal nations.
This environmental review process is the mechanism for deciding how much pollution an individual, business or corporation will be allowed to put into our environment. It’s also how larger legislation impacting our air, land, water and groundwater is implemented.
It’s time to give the people back their seat at the table.
There are two dedicated environmental funds in the state. Only one — the Clean Water Fund — is purely dedicated to reducing pollution and protecting clean water in Minnesota. How does the money in this fund get used? A group known as the Clean Water Council reviews requests and sends its recommendations to the Legislature.
In 2023, for the first time ever, lawmakers adopted every single Clean Water Fund spending recommendation. That’s exactly what we’d like to see happen again.
The Clean Water Council’s fair vetting process should be respected, not tossed aside at the whim of lawmakers looking to raid the fund for pet projects, or divert money to proposals outside its intended purpose. The state’s rivers, streams, creeks, lakes and ponds all benefit from adherence to this tried and true process. So do the people who count on clean water.
How you can make a difference this session
Accomplishing anything at the Capitol requires a group effort. FMR and our partners count on you to stay informed on the challenges facing the river, get engaged on the issues you're passionate about, and weigh when your support can make a difference. What's the simplest way to do all the above?
Subscribe to our email newsletter Mississippi Messages to keep up with all the latest news from the Capitol.
Sign up to be a River Guardian, and we'll reach out when there are opportunities to send a message to decision-makers on important issues. (You'll also get invites to special events.)
And take a look at FMR's advocacy page to see active petitions and action alerts.
Become a River Guardian
Sign up and we'll email you when important river issues arise. We make it quick and easy to contact decision-makers. River Guardians are also invited to special social hours and other events about legislative and metro river corridor issues.