Over the last several weeks, we've been shedding some light on the candidates and races that Land O'Lakes, Inc. is keeping an eye on—from the top of the ticket to various Senate and House seats. So far, everything we've touched on has been at the federal level, but that's not to say we don't care about state-level elections and issues.
While this year features fewer ballot initiatives that directly impact our business or industry, there are a number of issues we're tracking in various states that could be impacted by how the election shakes out.
Rather than going state by state, here's a look at the five states with ongoing legislative issues we will be tracking well beyond Nov. 8.
Recently, a series of legislative initiatives related to short-term pollutants and employee wages made their way through the California State Legislature and were signed into law by Governor Brown. The Government Relations team will actively engage on these costly measures and advocate for our member-owners through the rule-making and regulatory processes.
Looking ahead, USDA is currently reviewing the briefs, testimony and economic data entered into the record from this past year's Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) hearings. Once USDA's analysis is complete, a "recommended decision," will be subject to comments from dairy farmers, processors and other stakeholders.
From there, a final decision will be subject to approval, or disapproval, by California dairy farmers in a referendum. If an order is approved, the California FMMO could be effective sometime in 2017. Shifting to a FMMO would help California dairy farmers receive more equitable, market-based milk prices in line with most of the rest of the country.
The team continues to push for any legislation that would provide member-owners with relief from the ongoing drought. Land O'Lakes supports implementing relief that would expand storage and increase infrastructure while providing an emergency response measure.
Earlier this year, Governor Mark Dayton and Chris Policinski, president and CEO, announced a new public-private partnership to protect and improve water quality across Minnesota. With water quality expected to remain a top legislative and regulatory issues, this first-of-its-kind partnership is a great first step in connecting the State of Minnesota with Land O'Lakes' member network to improve water quality and stewardship standards on farm.
Another issue on the radar in Minnesota is preserving and expanding pollinator habitats while also supporting the use of crop protection practices that are used by our farmer members. Land O'Lakes took a proactive approach to this issue when we launched the PolliNation™ project and asked employees and member-owners to plant pollinator-friendly gardens. As a result, we gave away more than 46,000 seed packets this summer that, if planted, yielded up to 11 million flowers.
In Wisconsin we're paying attention to the new, strict enforcement of a law that requires milk payments be made by the 4th and 19th of each month, with no exceptions. This means Wisconsin dairy producers and processors will not be able to defer payments from one calendar year to another or even one month to another to meet customized fiscal year schedules.
We are working in partnership with the Cooperative Network—an association representing more than 400 cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin—to change the law. Cooperative Network has been meeting with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture to develop a new structure for payment flexibility that follows the successful blueprint developed by grain producers and dealers. We expect to have new legislation allowing for payment flexibility ready to be introduced during the next legislative session beginning January of 2017.
Iowa and Pennsylvania
In both Iowa and Pennsylvania, we're focusing a lot of our efforts on water issues. In Iowa, we're looking to identify real solutions that would help protect the state's waterways from nutrient runoff through modern ag technologies rather than harmful regulations.
While no bill has currently been introduced in Iowa, we would like to see a solution similar to a bill introduced last year in Pennsylvania that would help achieve important pollution reduction in the Chesapeake Bay and benefit the state's agricultural industry. We continue to support this bill as a means of preventing runoff into the state's waterways. The bill would encourage farmers to capture nitrogen and phosphorous by adding an economic incentive with the introduction of a competitive bidding process to procure verified reductions.
Interested in helping?
As these issues pick up steam next year, it's important we have the support of members and employees in each state. Land O'Lakes is committed to serving as your advocate but your voices as constituents can carry as much, if not more, weight than ours.
If you'd like to get involved, please contact Dana Brooks. You can also stay up to speed on any new activity by signing up for action alerts from our Legislative Action Center.
By building an engaged network of informed advocates today, we will be in a much better position to mobilize quickly as favorable or unfavorable bills are introduced in state legislatures.