Don’t you wish we had a crystal ball to predict the future of the dairy community and tell us the perfect solution?
Heck, I’d love to be able to trust a Magic 8 ball for the answers and to nudge me in the right direction.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Dairy Committee has been hard at work engaging industry stakeholders in conversations about our industry’s future. As chair of the committee, and a dairy farmer myself, I have a very personal stake in these discussions. The rest of the committee is made up of two individuals from each of WFBF’s nine districts who are appointed by their district representative on the state board of directors. These individuals are also dairy farmers, so they have an excellent understanding of the current climate of the industry.
At WFBF’s Annual Meeting last December, our voting delegates had a lengthy discussion about dairy policy and adopted new language that states, “We are willing to consider a flexible supply management system.”
This policy position, in conjunction with direction from the WFBF Board of Directors, made this a priority issue for the Dairy Committee’s agenda for 2019.
The committee has been inviting industry experts and stakeholders to engage in discussions about risk management tools that could be used to help farmers.
At our first meeting of the year, in February, Dr. Steve Ingham and Tim Anderson, representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, talked about milk inspections. Additionally, Dr. Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis at UW-Madison, gave an overview of federal dairy policy and talked through a system to manage dairy supply.
Our second meeting took place in April. We welcomed many guests to talk on a number of different topics. Dr. Kent Weigel, dairy science professor at UW Madison, and Shelly Mayer, executive director of Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, highlighted the importance of the Dairy Innovation Hub. We also heard from Dave Daniels, a member of the Dairy Taskforce 2.0, on their recommendations for future success. Kara O’Connor and Bobbi Wilson with Wisconsin Farmers Union also spoke on proposals for managing the amount of milk produced on our farms.
I’d like to elaborate more on the Dairy Innovation Hub. You’ve probably heard quite a bit bout this in recent news coverage. Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee recently supported adding $8.9 million in new funding to create a “hub” utilizing expertise from the three UW campuses that will focus on dairy research. With Wisconsin’s dairy industry being valued at $43 billion, this investment is less than 0.02 percent of the annual value this industry brings to our state, but new research dollars could have a large, lasting impact.
The four areas that this research will focus on are: stewardship of land and water resources, enrichments of human health and nutrition, animal health and welfare along with growth of farm businesses and communities. I’m excited about the positive difference this proposal could have for the future of our state’s dairy industry. Our dairy community needs research to drive future success if we want to continue to see dairy drive our state’s economy.
Our third meeting is coming up in July. We will learn more about Dairy Margin Coverage, Federal Milk Marketing Orders and dairy prices along the supply chain. At this meeting, our committee will also take some time to discuss everything that has been presented and work toward drafting recommendations for the WFBF Board of Directors to review.
As a dairy farmer myself, I know other farmers out there want the freedom and flexibility to manage their business in whatever way works best for them while making a decent living. Farmers are proud of the work they do. As farmers in the United States, we are the best of the best. We know how to provide the best care to our cows, make the highest quality milk and we have some creative ways of using that milk.
If you are struggling to see what the future holds for your farm, I am too.
I wish I had a crystal ball that could predict the future and tell me exactly what I need to do today to help my farm in the future, so my children don’t deal with these same struggles.
This is a great opportunity to get involved in Farm Bureau’s grassroots policy development process. I encourage you to attend your district policy development meeting. This is a time for county Farm Bureau members to bring new policy ideas and initiatives to the table for discussion. Resolutions that pass on the county level are sent to the state level for further review, so this is the time to make your ideas known.
Derek and his wife Charisse milk Jersey cows on their farm, Orthridge Jerseys, in Fennimore with Derek’s parents. The couple have two young daughters who both enjoy life on the farm. Derek is graduate of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Leadership Institute, past chair of the state Young Farmer and Agriculturist Committee, current chair of the WFBF Dairy Committee and was recently selected to participate in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s PAL program. Additionally, Derek and Charisse recently completed a term on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmer & Rancher Committee.
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