U.S. Sen. Tina Smith visited the Minnesota Corn Growers Association in Burnsville Wednesday to meet with agriculture lobbies — from pork and soybean to poultry and dairy — to break ground on discussions for the upcoming farm bill.

Reauthorizing the nation's top investment into nutrition and farm products, a twice-a-decade gauntlet in Washington, drew out candid if, at times, diplomatic pleas from Minnesota's agriculture leaders to largely maintain the profile of the $860 billion bill that passed in 2018.

Bob Worth, a soybean farmer from Lake Benton, said he understands Congress will do more than "tweak" the bill, but he added, "I wouldn't completely rewrite it."

"It's a good farm bill from a farmer's standpoint," said Worth.

The DFL senator broke the intensity of the discussion by catching herself in an unintended pun, glancing at a representative from the beef producers while touting agriculture and forestry provisions in the erstwhile Build Back Better legislation as having "had the impact, essentially, of beefing up —"

In a self-deprecatory gesture, she then went down the line to others at the table, "I shouldn't be like, you know, milking up, hogging up," drawing laughter from the room.

The last farm bill — called the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 — will expire at the end of September 2023. Even in an era of heavy partisanship in Congress, the reauthorization has historically drawn cooperation among Republicans and Democrats, as the bill spans a dozen federal funding pots, from crop insurance and subsidies to rural broadband and even horticulture. The vast majority of the last bill — over 75% — went to federal nutrition programs, including SNAP.

But Wednesday's visit was geared toward the producers, who, by and large, suggested satisfaction with the current federal program rules and investments.

"We're going to play a lot of defense on it," predicted Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation president Dan Glessing.

Smith, who took notes during the roughly 50-minute session, told the group she heard loud and clear the "don't-fix-it-if-it-ain't-broke strategy" around the farm bill.

She also acknowledged that the reauthorization will be the first without longtime congressman and chair of the House Ag Committee Collin Peterson, DFL, who represented western Minnesota and was defeated in 2020 by Michelle Fischbach.

"I think both [U.S. Sen.] Amy [Klobuchar] and I feel then we have an even additional responsibility," said Smith, "because we won't have Collin's voice in the House."