DARLINGTON—Lafayette County representatives of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau have taken the opportunity to let their state representatives in Madison know how they feel about farming legislation that is being proposed or changed.
Ag Day at the Capitol is an annual event where farmers across the state meet to learn about agricultural legislation being considered for Wisconsin and discuss its potential impacts. Five Lafayette County Farm Bureau members—including Katie Reichling, Allen Abraham, Rick Althaus, Mike Berg and Leon Wolfe—attended the convention on Feb. 8 at the Monona Terrace in Madison.
The event included speakers Bill Bruins, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation president; Jeff Lyon, deputy secretary for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; and Joe Murray of the Wisconsin Realtors Association. Following the speakers and a briefing on the agriculture-related issues facing state lawmakers, attendees walked to the state capitol to discuss the impacts of the laws with state representatives and state senators. Lafayette County Farm Bureau members visited with State Representative Howard Marklein (R-51st Assembly District) and State Senator Dale Schultz (R-District 17).
Those attending the event discussed the following topics with their representatives:
-air emissions law making livestock farms exempt from obtaining air emissions permit from the DNR;
-wetlands law that would help farmers secure a permit for projects that have an impact to a wetland while still protecting the environment;
-wolves/sandhill cranes law that would establish a hunting season for both to manage the populations to reduce crop damage and livestock depredation;
-road weight limits law to allow farmers to more efficiently haul and apply manure to their fields;
-livestock premise registration to continue Wisconsin’s current program when funding is set to expire this year.
Other key topics that were discussed included roundabouts not designed for farm traffic, use value assessment, livestock siting, right to farm and animal welfare.
“I grew up on a farm,” Marklein said. “I understand what folks go through.”
Marklein said he doesn’t know of a farmer who would intentionally harm the land or animals because that would hurt productivity and affect the farm operation. He said we all want clean water and clean air and he just asks that we have one set of rules to follow.
“Part of the problem, as you folks well know, is fewer and fewer people know where our food comes from,” Marklein said. “They didn’t grow up on farms and they think food comes from the grocery store. Some people are repulsed that you have to kill an animal for meat.”
Marklein has a philosophy about stimulating the economy.
“One thing about farmers is they will have zero dollars left in the bank at the end of the year,” Marklein said. “Either they lost money or there are things they need to buy for their operation. If you want to stimulate the economy, give money to the farmers. They’ll be able to spend it.”
Schultz is a hunter, so preserving Wisconsin’s natural resources are a priority for him and he talked at length about several of the topics.
“Life is about balancing,” Schultz said. “We all care a lot about our environment. I love to hunt, but we also know that we need to be able to earn a living here. This state is going through a lot of stress because we don’t have enough money for the services that we would like and we have been accustomed to. It has been a rude shock to a lot of people and that means, as far as I’m concerned, that we all need to embrace the notion of growing and expanding the economy.”
Schultz said we’re going to have to change the way we do things in Wisconsin because the world is moving faster. He said education is the key.
Lafayette County Farm Bureau members are trying to grow the membership of the local organization. Berg said it’s become a challenge as farms become larger and renters are more prevalent. However, even those not actively in agriculture can still be a supporter of the farm bureau.
“You don’t have to be actively farming in order to take in interest in farming in this community,” Berg said.
The organization promotes local FFA and 4-H organizations to build on an interest in farming at a young age. The Lafayette County Farm Bureau also holds Ag in the Classroom, an annual presentation for fourth and fifth graders to learn about agriculture, especially where the food they eat comes from.
The organization also works with the county fair and sponsors Farm Safety Day.
Reichling said University of Wisconsin-Platteville has started a collegiate chapter of the farm bureau to get college students actively involved in farming while pursuing their education.
“In agriculture, everybody has to do their part,” Reichling said. “We hope to retain some of the UWP members. We feel this will help us in Lafayette County.”
The Lafayette County Farm Bureau will be holding a membership drive in March. More details will be announced as it gets closer.