One thing that drew me to Farm Bureau was the respect the organization had. I believe that’s because Farm Bureau was founded by farmers working together and trying to make things better. As a farmer and now your president, that is something I take pride in – making things better. I have served in a leadership role in this organization since 2008 when I was elected Waushara County president. In 2012, I was elected to the state board representing District 5, the seven counties including Juneau, Adams, Marquette, Green Lake, Waushara, Winnebago and Fond du Lac. In 2020, I was elected to this position.
As we look back at 2020, the year of the ‘new normal,’ COVID-19 affected our lives in many ways. COVID-19 made all of us rethink communication, learning and gatherings. Many schools and organizations met virtually and the need for online technology skyrocketed. It highlighted the need for faster broadband, something many of us in rural Wisconsin struggle with. Farm Bureau continues to push for high-speed rural broadband. An infrastructure necessity not only in a pandemic but in running our farms daily. Our pressure on this issue will hopefully make it better.
Store shelves also went empty last year as restaurants closed due to COVID-19 and consumers purchased more meat from grocery stores. Consumers flocked to local meat processors. This created unprecedented demand. Meat harvesting appointments are now booked out more than one year in advance. Farm Bureau is looking to make this flow better for farmers and their customers. This includes pushing for more inspectors, supporting grants to help processing plants open or expand and labor reform to help meet the labor needs. There is much uncertainty moving forward for processing plants. Will consumers continue to purchase in the same trends as we move past COVID-19? Local facilities create competition in the market giving options to farmers in selling beef and we need to make this option the best we can for our farmers.
COVID-19 and tariffs have weighed heavily on global trade. Recent weather issues around the world have caused commodity shortages and have pushed prices higher. Farm Bureau will continue to push to lower the trade barriers for long-term relationships and stable prices to make things better for the agriculture community.
After 4 years of tight margins, dairy farmers had an unprecedented year in 2020. After markets closed, some farms had to dispose of milk because processors could not process their milk. As the pandemic continued, government purchases of cheese along with consumer demand for cheese drove up Class III milk prices. Class III moved much higher than Class IV, causing negative Producer Price Differentials on milk checks. Farms are receiving mailbox prices less than the Class III price. Farm Bureau continues to push for a better situation for dairy farmers and general dairy prosperity through price transparency and implementing a fix to the negative PPDs in the next farm bill.
Farm Bureau has a long history of meeting the needs of Wisconsin farmers. From creating an insurance company, to creating use value assessment, to fighting for the right to farm, history shows farmers are resilient and Farm Bureau has been there all along the way. With your help and input, we will continue to meet your needs. We will continue to be engaged with government, supply chain and consumers, advocating for you to make things better.