Reaching Out: Dairy’s Voice Heard as Farm Bill Groundwork Laid
September 7, 2022
- Coordinated farmer appearances at numerous congressional policy panels
- Placed farmer perspectives in mass-market media
- Developed dairy’s next-generation leadership through timely webinars
Farm Bill hearings and listening sessions held by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees this spring and summer provided another opportunity for NMPF to proactively engage its members of all sizes, and across the country, to provide critical input to Congress as they prepare to craft a new farm bill next year.
NMPF recruited and worked closely with several farmer leaders, including Melvin Medeiros, a Dairy Farmers of America producer from California and NMPF Executive Committee member; Ashley Kennedy, a Michigan Milk Producers Association producer from Michigan; and Lolly Lesher, a DFA producer from Pennsylvania and NMPF Dairy Voice Network member on their testimony before Congress in favor of maintaining and strengthening the Dairy Margin Coverage program and providing additional resources to help farmers enhance their ongoing environmental stewardship efforts.
More informally, NMPF also worked with its member cooperatives to secure farmer participation at a variety of listening sessions held in the field. The events featured multiple members of NMPF’s farmer leadership, including Steve Schlangen, Chairman of Associated Milk Producers Inc. and an NMPF Executive Committee member from Minnesota; Joey Fernandes, a Land O’Lakes producer from California and NMPF board member; Jim Boyle, a United Dairymen of Arizona member from Arizona and Chairman of NMPF’s Immigration Task Force; and Medeiros. Other producer witnesses included Jeremy Visser, a Northwest Dairy Association/Darigold board member from Washington; Jim Werkhoven, an NDA/Darigold member from Washington and former NMPF board member; Charles Krause, a DFA member from Minnesota; and KC Graner, an LOL ag retail member-owner from Minnesota.
While NMPF-affiliated farmer participants hailed from different parts of the country, NMPF helped hone a cohesive message nationwide, focused on continuing and building on current dairy policy and making additional, needed investments in conservation, trade, and nutrition programs.
NMPF also communicated dairy’s policy message through targeted efforts to place farmers voices in mass-market media, allowing the industry’s best messengers to break through media noise. Brittany Nickerson-Thurlow, Medeiros, and Josh Gladden, all members of the NMPF Dairy Voice Network created last year, each bylined op-ed articles on dairy’s policy needs in daily newspapers in Florida, California and Arizona, resulting in follow-up interviews from the Wall Street Journal, BBC and other globally known outlets.
At the same time, NMPF communications staff helped develop and serve the next generation of dairy-farmer leadership through its Young Cooperators (YC) program. The YC Program is providing virtual and in-person educational and leadership development opportunities every month this year, covering a variety of topics of importance to young and beginning farmers including farm safety, employee onboarding, transition planning and consumer perspectives on dairy cattle welfare.
YCs also met this year in Washington, D.C. for the first time since 2019 for the program’s capstone Dairy Policy and Legislative Forum. 45 dairy farmers from 15 states and representing ten member cooperatives participated in the two-day event, which included discussions about political engagement and dairy policy issues, along with training on how to be an effective advocate and spokesperson for dairy. YCs then headed to Capitol Hill to speak with members of Congress and their staffs about NMPF priorities.