As a farmer myself, I know nothing is more important than the ability to get a safe, abundant food supply to our customers. During the last year, we have experienced supply chain disruptions globally and have learned a lot in the process.
We saw empty grocery store shelves or certain items were limited. This is something that hasn’t happened in the U.S. for a generation, but it sparked a great conversation about food.
It’s important to note that farming did not stop. We saw packaging and delivery systems adjust to restaurants and schools closing and people working from home. At the same time, consumers stocked up on groceries and other products causing new trends in food buying and demand.
During the last year, we have not only seen the importance of food production, but the importance of getting the food to the people who need it. While exports and feeding a hungry planet are integral parts of agriculture, so are domestic programs such as the child nutrition programs that help provide school meals to children across the U.S.
But this food conversation goes much deeper. People want to know more about their food and COVID-19 escalated that discussion. Through the pandemic, we continued to have the safest and affordable food in the world. Furthermore, our customers are now asking deeper questions about how food is produced and how that production impacts our planet.
I can guarantee you that farmers want to be part of the discussion. Global climate challenges were not caused by farmers, but we will certainly be part of the solution. As an example, we continue to implement volunteer programs to capture carbon to reduce or eliminate our carbon footprint. With continued on-farm efficiencies implemented, dairies have lowered their carbon footprint of a gallon of milk by more than 19 percent between 2007 and 2017.
Farmers also will continue to produce products for such items as biofuels to reduce global climate impacts. While the success of getting better soils and cleaner water is a moving target, the research, development and implementation of more programs are costly for farmers alone, so we are looking for partners to make this happen and to continuously improve.
We need to start by creating a funding mechanism to bring investments into agriculture. Investments that help farmers do what we do best – working collaboratively to solve problems. We need an incentive-based system to meet our objectives versus regulating family farms out of business.
Farmers are worried. Even though commodity prices are on an uptick, they are overburdened by regulations and trying to predict an uncertain future. Wisconsin has some of the most productive land in the country. We grow some of the largest crops of potatoes, cranberries and ginseng. It’s important to support farmers because losing Wisconsin farms is not only harmful for rural communities’ economies but also for the consumers who have come to expect healthy, safe, abundant, locally-grown food.
Farm Bureau stands with farmers. We support farmers in a variety of areas. Specifically on this topic we stand for a science-based approach to regulation and are in support of farmers implementing on-farm environmental research and creating strategies and tools of implementation through programs such as the farmer-led watershed groups.
We also have volunteers around the state advocating on the local level telling farmers’ stories. Currently, Wisconsin Farm Bureau is making plans to amplify efforts in sharing how farmers work to protect our precious natural resources.
This past year has given us a chance to really dive into a conversation on food and farming. The supply chain challenges will continue as it is a learning curve as demand shifts constantly. When global disruption of supply happens, it affects everything. The amount of online purchasing is astronomically more than in the past, so we are learning some new processes along the way. Shipping ports and labor add to the challenges as well.
One thing won’t change and that’s farmers desire to produce the food, fiber and fuel that people come to expect when they enter a store or when they click the order button online.
Kevin Krentz was elected to the WFBF Board of Directors in 2012 to represent District 5, which includes Adams, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Juneau, Marquette, Waushara and Winnebago counties. In December of 2020, Kevin was elected as President of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. Kevin and his family own a dairy farm in Berlin. He started his farming career when he purchased his father’s 60 cows in 1994. He grew the farm to 600 cows and 1,300 acres of crops.