With spring planting season upon us, we become preoccupied with all the work that needs to be done.
Tilling and planting fields, fixing fences for pastures, hauling manure, fixing machinery that breaks down and the list goes on and on. At the same time, many of us have the ongoing needs of caring for livestock.
It is easy to be consumed by the many things we need to get done in a short time and forget about the importance of communication.
Communication from us, as farmers, with neighbors and officials representing our townships, law enforcement and transportation departments is crucial. Don’t underestimate having conversations and building relationships.
As farmers we often chomp at the bit to haul manure and are frustrated when spring road weight limits are in effect. Even more so, 22 counties and more than 150 townships have “opted in” under Wisconsin’s IOH law, requiring farmers to apply for no-fee permits to operate farm machinery on local roads if the machinery is above the allowable axle weight or gross vehicle weight limits. Also note that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is issuing no fee permits for this same machinery travelling on state highways.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for farmers to talk to local transportation and law enforcement officials about what equipment they intend to operate on roads. Whether it is getting the no-fee permits or telling them how you intend to move equipment during nonpeak traffic times to minimize conflicts on local roads, a conversation has to be had.
If applicable, work with your local transportation officials to see if roads can be designated for one-way traffic to minimize the impact of manure tankers. If you intend to pipe manure, explain to your neighbors that you do so in safe way.
Most importantly, farmers need to talk to their neighbors before spreading manure. We need to realize that farmers are being scrutinized more and more over how and when they apply manure. Before we start emptying the manure pit or cleaning the lots, please talk with your neighbors to let them know when you plan to spread near them. Maybe offer to adjust your plans if the wind is blowing from the wrong direction or if they have an event planned at their house.
Taking a few minutes to touch base with your neighbors could save you some headaches in the future. Just because we are in the farming world doesn’t mean customer service doesn’t apply.
As farmers, we are fortunate that the public regards us in a positive way. However, some are beginning to question the way we do things. Being proactive is key. Take time to talk to your neighbors and officials so that you can work better together, not just this spring but in the future as well.
Be a good neighbor. It’s worth it.
Jim Holte was elected president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation on in 2012. He was elected to the WFBF Board of Directors in 1995. He represents District 9 which consists of the Barron, Chippewa, Dunn, Pierce, Polk, Rusk, Sawyer and St. Croix county Farm Bureaus as well as the Superior Shores County Farm Bureau (made up of Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas and Iron counties). Jim was elected to the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors in January of 2015 as a representative of the Midwest region. Jim and grows corn soybeans and alfalfa on 460 acres of land south of Elk Mound. He also raises beef steers. He and his wife, Gayle, have two children and four grandchildren.