2024: Sen. Bill Weber
The Minnesota Pork Board recognizes Sen. Bill Weber as this year’s Legislator of Distinction award recipient.
Representing agriculture has been a lifelong mission for Minnesota Senator Bill Weber. For decades, he has spent countless hours advocating for the community and state he grew up in. Senator Weber’s passion for advocating for agriculture has been apparent and genuine throughout his time in office.
Getting His Start
Rock county has always been home for Sen. Weber, growing up eight miles southwest of Luverne on his family farm. As the fourth generation on the farm, Sen. Weber was exposed at a young age to the role agriculture plays in our daily lives. His great-grandfather bought the farm in 1882, and today Sen. Weber’s nephew is the fifth generation to farm the land. Saying he understands the significance of family and generational farming would be an understatement.
Involvement in leadership activities in his youth helped develop Sen. Weber’s appetite for leadership later in life. He served as his school’s FFA president and participated in public speaking events. Skills learned through these activities had a direct correlation with what would follow. Throughout his childhood, Sen. Weber’s grandfather lived with his family. Sen. Weber recalls his experience being exposed to politics at a young age.
“As a kid, my grandpa lived with us and I was always frustrated during the republican convention, in those days you only had one TV in the house and that’s what it was on,” Sen. Weber said. “Now I’m pretty much the same way.”
Sen. Weber graduated from Nettleton Business College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with a degree in professional accounting. He then returned to Luverne to work. Since 1976, he has worked in real estate sales and appraisal at Jensen Management Service, Inc.
Path to Local and State Service
While settling down in his home community, Sen. Weber was encouraged by many to run for city council. At first, he was not interested in the position. However, the council had a vacancy that needed to be filled in order to meet quorum.
Sen. Weber explained, “In politics, never say never. A situation had arisen where the city budget had to be certified by a certain date in October and one of the members had passed away, and another was out of town on business, so that meant they wouldn’t have a quorum by the time of the meeting.”
Sen. Weber decided to fill the role, marking his first position in the local government. After being exposed to the role, Sen. Weber saw issues arise that he had an opinion on and continued to attend meetings. His boss at the time told him that if he is going to attend meetings, he might as well become an elected part of the council. So, two years after filling the void, Sen. Weber ran and was elected in 1984. He continued to serve on the city council for eight years.
Following his run as a member of the council, he continued to serve in the local government as mayor. After sixteen years of service, Sen. Weber left local office in January 2001.
After some years off, Sen. Weber decided to run at the state level to serve as a member of the Minnesota Senate. 2006 was not the best year to be a Republican challenger, and he was not elected. He continued to be active in his community and in his job helping others with real estate needs. At the end of 2011, Sen. Weber received a call from then Senator, Doug Magnus.
He encouraged Sen. Weber that now was the right time to run, saying, “I’ve been here for 10 years and I’m not going to run for office again. You have to run.”
Sen. Weber listened and was elected in 2012. He has served consecutive four- and two-year terms since then, being re-elected in 2022 for his fourth term.
Minnesota pig farmer Don Buhl has had the opportunity to work with Sen. Weber over the years. Buhl has had first-hand experience seeing the passion Sen. Weber brings to the legislature.
“Senator Weber is a great example of a citizen-legislator! He has his own business, he has been a leader in his community and has chosen to represent the interests of his area by serving in the Legislature,” Buhl stated.
Committees and Their Impact
Over his terms, Sen. Weber has been a member of numerous committees advocating for agriculture. The committees range from environment and energy; jobs, agriculture and rural development; education; environment and natural resources policy and taxes; among several others.
Now in his fourth term, Sen. Weber is a member of two committees. The energy, utilities, environment and climate committee and as the Republican lead on the tax committee. With the thirty committees that the Senate operates, it is evident Sen. Weber cares deeply about improving conditions in rural communities.
Of his time on these committees, one of Sen. Weber’s most notable stories occurred during planting season for many farmers while chairing the Agricultural Policy committee in the spring of 2017. One of the bills that he carried was to raise the animal unit capacity size before requiring an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW). A person of the opposing party, and on the committee, started questioning the lack of supporters present from Sen. Weber’s bill.
He pressed, “There are so many people here opposing your bill, where are those in favor of it?”
Sen. Weber had asked Minnesota Pork’s CEO at the time, Dave Preisler, to be in attendance representing Minnesota pig farmers. Sen. Weber went on to explain to the questioning Senator that Minnesota is comprised of family farmers, most of whom were in the fields, and specifically told him about a certain young farmer.
He explained the significance of family farming and ended with, “Do you want to know why I know so much about this young farmer? Because he is my nephew farming on my family’s fifth generation farm, and if you think I don’t care about the family farm you **** well better be ready for a fight.” Sen. Weber urged. His genuine passion for agriculture is evident in each interaction he has.
Sen. Weber’s most recent win for agriculture was increasing the agriculture homestead valuation limit. This bill will expand the current valuation limit for an agricultural homestead from $2.7 million to $3.5 million. While it would vary across the state, the average homestead would increase by about 80 acres and farmers would pay the much lower .5% rate on those acres. The purpose of this legislation is to keep up with what a commercially-viable farm looks like. The bill was heard in the senate tax committee and made it in the final tax bill.
He reflected on the importance of being present to pass these bills by explaining the lack of awareness as of late.
“A lot of people don’t know what farming is about anymore. So many of the environmentalists think that the farming community is out there not caring about the environment or the quality of water, and there is nothing that is further from the truth,” Sen. Weber urged. “It’s the farm families that are first exposed to farm wells. It’s the water they drink, so they are not out there trying to pollute anything that so readily affects them.”
His passion for doing what is best for not just agriculture, but all Minnesotans is obvious. Sen. Weber emphasizes how the practices that have been implemented have been designed around stewardship, both of soil and water quality.
“The steps that have been taken in recent years to produce a better water quality will take time,” Sen. Weber explained. “There is a genuine lack of understanding out there.”
Sen. Weber radiates a dedication to serving those he is representing well. Each day, he keeps in mind he is advocating for farmers to be able to operate for generations to come.
“Someone once asked me, being in the minority this year, how I get up and go to work every day,” Sen. Weber began. “I explained to them the reality is my constituents did not send me here to quit. They sent me here to state their values and beliefs and I will continue to do that. As long as I do that, I take comfort in the fact that at least their position got to be represented.”
One of Sen. Weber’s proudest pieces of legislation came out of the education committee. The bill advocated for bringing career vocational training back to the high school level. Although not passed when Sen. Weber was a member, he played the vital role of introducing the bill. When it was first introduced, Sen. Weber came across a former state Senator who was a democratic-farmer-labor (DFL) majority leader for many years who had learned of Sen. Weber’s bill. The former Senator told Sen. Weber one of his biggest regrets was he allowed the state of Minnesota to back away from vocational education. He asked Sen. Weber if there was anything he could do to help the bill pass, to which Sen. Weber replied, “you could testify,” and he did.
As a freshman republican member, Sen. Weber bringing the former DFL majority leader to testify on behalf of his bill spoke volumes.
Supporting Minnesota pig farmers is second nature for Sen. Weber. He understands the critical dedication as there are constant challenges occurring within agriculture, proving the importance of Sen. Weber’s advocating on the industry’s behalf. Buhl can attest to this.
“Senator Weber understands the value that our family-owned hog farms bring to the state of Minnesota. He has done great work to ensure that state laws that affect our farms make sense and are fair. He is a true friend of family-owned businesses in Minnesota,” Buhl stated. “He has helped to ensure that the pork industry can continue to produce food here in Minnesota and be a major part of this state’s economy.”
“Government typically looks for solutions as though it’s a one size fits all, but one size never fits all,” Sen. Weber reflected. “We need to be out there working with the different industries helping produce measures that are workable for all their members in order to achieve the maximum benefit.”