More than 250 farmers and ranchers, including a delegation from Wisconsin, gathered in Washington, D.C. for the National Farmers Union’s Fall Legislative Fly-In.
As they meet with lawmakers, USDA leaders, and other administration officials, the group is advocating for fairness for farmers, farm bill priorities, dairy policy reform, and climate, conservation and biofuel efforts.
Seventeen Wisconsin Farmers Union members made the trek to the nation’s capital.
“It’s all about building relationships, whether it’s with other Farmers Union members, with administrators, or with legislative representatives,” says WFU Government Relations Director Rick Adamski. “When you’re talking about problems or hoping to get a program that is working extended, those relationships are vital.”
With farmers in Wisconsin and elsewhere continuing to face struggles made worse during the coronavirus pandemic, WFU members have plenty of issues to discuss when meeting with federal agriculture officials and lawmakers, Adamski said.
On Sept. 12, they joined members from throughout the country to converse with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and other USDA officials about a variety of agriculture policy issues. During the afternoon, WFU members attended sessions to discuss such topics as commodities, antitrust, and conservation policies. Later in the day members gathered with colleagues from other states at the National Farmers Union headquarters.
WFU President Darin Von Ruden said access to federal agriculture staff members and Congressional lawmakers is key to educating them about the needs of farmers and rural communities.
“I see the challenges we’re facing in rural areas as a chance to get people who are in positions of power to pay attention to those issues,” Von Ruden said. “There is attention being paid to rural America right now, and it seems like there is willingness on both sides of the political aisle to listen and take action.”
Vilsack and the Biden administration are funding numerous initiatives to benefit rural communities, such as dollars to invest in infrastructure and expand meat processing capacity. Von Ruden sees more possibilities ahead and notes continued discussions with USDA and policy makers are key to progress.
Becky Brathal and her husband Ryan are attending the fly-in and are excited to lend their voices to advocating for such issues as dairy policy reforms and conservation practices. Becky is the treasurer of the St. Croix County chapter of WFU.
“When you think about a lot of these issues, they don’t just impact farmers, they impact all of us,” Becky said.
The fly-in participants met with U.S. Senate and House of Representatives agriculture committees’ staff members to lift up priorities for the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill, including:
Strengthen the farm safety net through increased price-based triggers in commodity programs to reflect higher input costs.
Expand and enhance permanent disaster programs so that family farmers and ranchers are able to bounce back quickly from severe weather and other loss events.
Build upon conservation programs to help family farmers and ranchers address the climate crisis.
Foster strong and resilient local and regional food systems and diverse markets.
Enact the Dairy Revitalization Plan to stem the loss of family dairy farms.
The farmers are also urging support for a “Fairness for Farmers” series of bills that they believe would level the playing field with large producers or companies, including the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act, Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, American Beef Labeling Act, and Right to Repair Act.
Representing WFU at the fly-in this year are: Paul Adams, Eleva; Rick Adamski, Seymour; Camryn Billen, Eau Claire; Becky and Ryan Brathal, Woodville; Hans Breitenmoser, Merrill; Julian Emerson, Eau Claire; Allison Hellenbrand, Madison; Anna and Kevin Hinchley-Skadahl, Cambridge; Claudia Lenz, Star Prairie; Emil Mravec, Twin Lakes; Michelle Ramirez White, Madison; Dave Rosen, Emerald; Oliva Roth; Albany; Kirsten Slaughter, Madison; and Darin Von Ruden, Westby.