It’s a big year for the agriculture industry. Ag commodity markets continue to fluctuate and trade is top of mind after the United States’ withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), NAFTA renegotiation considerations and the recent turmoil surrounding Canada’s controversial dairy policies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a new Secretary Sonny Perdue who recently announced changes to the USDA structure. All of this comes amidst planning for the next Farm Bill that will set the tone for agricultural and food policy for the country.
As a farmer-owned cooperative, Land O’Lakes, Inc. is keenly aware of the changing landscape. Day in and day out, advocates visit Capitol Hill to help educate legislators about the policies that help you and our industry manage volatility and drive continued success. Most recently those advocates included Chris Policinski, president and CEO, Mike Vande Logt, executive vice president and chief operating officer, WinField United, Tom Wakefield, former Land O’Lakes board member and Andy Snider, member of Land O’Lakes’ policies and resolutions committee and owner of Snider Farms.
Meetings at the White House
On May 10, Chris was invited to meet with Vice President Mike Pence given his role as chairman of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. In the meeting, Chris shared the food industry’s unique position as the single largest sector of American manufacturing with nearly 30,000 establishments employing nearly 2 million workers, touching virtually every family, in every community, every day. The vice president complimented the industry on strengthening our communities through jobs and community-based philanthropic projects.
The second part of the meeting was with National Economic Director Gary Cohn—the president’s principal economic advisor—and focused on consumer tax reform, business tax reform, and regulatory reform which could stimulate growth in demand for our products and enable increased investment in facilities and jobs. The vice president noted that the administration is very aware of the importance of both immigration and trade in the agricultural community.
In a separate May meeting at the White House, Mike Vande Logt also met with National Economic Director Gary Cohn as part of a delegation from CropLife America. The meeting focused on the integral need for crop protection technology in farming as well as ensuring the regulatory process continues to be based on the best available science.
Rallying for dairy
Tom Wakefield participated in the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) Capitol Hill fly-in where more than 40 farmers and dairy executives discussed the importance of North American trade to the dairy industry with members of the House and Senate, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), along with bipartisan leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee.
Farm Bill heads to Michigan
Andy Snider and his wife Beth run the day-to-day operations of their 2,700-acre farm in Western Michigan. Along with his son and daughter-in-law and a dedicated team of 11 employees, they raise turkeys and hogs, and grow corn and soybeans. As if that weren’t enough to keep him busy, he holds several leadership roles for local farm cooperatives, including serving on the board of Greenstone Farm Credit Services and Michigan Turkey Producers Cooperative, while also representing ag region four on the executive council for Land O’Lakes.
Andy shared this experience—both as a turkey producer and a cooperative leader—to the Senate Agriculture Committee in its second listening session about the 2018 Farm Bill in Frankenmuth, Michigan, on May 7. Covering topics that included farm credit system, conservation, animal pest and disease disaster programs and the importance of cooperatives to the ag economy, Andy helped Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) understand the issues affecting Michigan’s ag community.
Be an advocate
As you can see, educating policymakers on our stance on the issues can happen anywhere. You can get involved, too. Call, email or meet with your member of Congress to let them know what matters to you. Even members of Congress from rural areas need to hear what is and isn’t working as it relates to the Farm Bill. Are you interested in inviting them to your farm or co-op? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and they will help you coordinate.
Over the next few months, we’ll continue bring examples of advocacy in action, as well as overviews of the Farm Bill titles that have the greatest impact on our businesses.