CFANS student group takes on bonding bill

The college’s student policy engagement group is preparing to lobby for bonding bill projects on the St. Paul campus.

Vanessa Nyarko

As state lawmakers prepare for the start of the 2014 legislative session Tuesday, a group of University of Minnesota students from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences is readying to push for St. Paul upgrades.

The CFANS Policy Engagement Program is preparing to lobby for bonding bill requests affecting the college, which include renovations to the Bee Lab and the Sorensen Lab and construction of a new Microbial Sciences Research building.

If those requests are funded, nutrition senior Rylee Ahnen said, there will be “an explosion of research in those three specific areas.”

Gov. Mark Dayton recommended the University’s entire $12 million request for lab renovations, but he didn’t recommend any funding for the microbial sciences project, for which the University requested $30 million in state funds.

The state House and Senate have yet to release their bonding bill recommendations, and the CFANS group is preparing to court the support of legislators in both chambers.

Emily Nachtigal, a CFANS alumna who helped create the group and legislative assistant at the Capitol, said members have invited Republican and DFL party leaders to visit with the students when they head to the Capitol on March 10 to lobby.

The group hopes to target leaders of legislative committees that focus on agricultural and environmental policies and lawmakers who represent group members’ hometown voting districts.

Nachtigal said some legislators have already agreed to speak with the CFANS students.

‘Government 101’

Since Nachtigal and two others created the CFANS policy group in 2012, it has grown to include 21 members who represent a variety of CFANS majors.

Before the lobbying work begins, she said, students will be taught about the bonding bill and work on sharing their personal stories to make the case for funding St. Paul campus construction and renovation projects.

Nachtigal said going to the Capitol will be “Government 101” for CFANS students who spend more time focusing on lab work instead of policy.

Blaine Nelson, an applied economics senior, said his membership in the group has provided a unique experience in learning about politics.

In addition to its own lobbying efforts, Ahnen said the CFANS policy group plans to partner with the Minnesota Student Association on Support the U Day on March 27 to bring the college’s perspective.

The group is also looking for more collaborators. Nachtigal said group members have invited several members of the Future Farmers of America to work with them and are hoping to collaborate with more student groups.