Another Ag day at the Capitol has come and gone. It wasn’t that long ago that I thought it was just another meeting my dad was going to in Madison. I didn’t see the importance of a bunch of farmers headed to the Capitol dressed in business suits.
What I didn’t understand was that our State Senators and Assembly Representatives are looking for our opinions on the current proposed legislation and genuinely value our input. My view on Ag Day at the Capitol has changed over the years. The day now makes me proud to be a Farm Bureau member.
More than 400 farmers and agriculturalists came together at the Monona Terrace in January to hear briefings on issues that need action taken from our elected officials during the current legislative session. Some directly affected the farms or businesses we run, while others seemed a little farther away from our everyday lives.
After the briefings I made my way up to the Capitol to be my own lobbyist for the afternoon. When meeting with my elected officials, introductions were made and discussions were started to find out my legislators felt on the issues that directly affected me and my family. As I sat there and listened to others in our group of constituents, it caught my attention how many conversations were started.
“We were told to tell you…” or “What else are we supposed to tell you? Oh yeah…” were very common ways my peers began their conversations. Since the office was not the time or place to mention these statements, I thought I would do it here. I don’t want to call anyone out but, just want everyone to take a minute to reevaluate why you were at Ag Day.
Personally, I attended Ag Day at the Capitol because it is my responsibility as a farmer to discuss the issues that directly affect my business with those who make decisions. We as Farm Bureau members should be happy to have a highly-respected governmental relations team, working for us. Not only do they decipher the current proposed legislation but allow time to report to us how it will exactly affect each farmer in the state.
Yes, at Ag Day at the Capitol we were given a handout with proposed legislation. Yes, the actions were bolded in the print; however these actions came from the policies we set at the state annual meeting.
No one is telling us how to speak. Each of us should be telling our story and explaining how the issues will directly affect you as an individual. Take the responsibility to make your own choices and choose your own words.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t drive all the way to Madison to follow someone else’s political agenda. Farm Bureau gives us the platform but it is up to us to make the difference.
Please remember that without our governmental relations team, we would still be paging through the hundreds of documents wondering how and why this would change our businesses. I am thankful that while I am doing my chores on the farm, there is someone in Madison looking out for me.
Ryan Klussendorf owns and operates a 100-grass based dairy with his wife Cheri. He attended UW-Madison’s Farm & Industry Short Course. Ryan and Cheri have three sons: Kale, Owen and Max. Cheri and Ryan are former Achievement Award winners.