The DBA pointed to ongoing economic conditions in agriculture that are taking a toll on farm families and their rural communities as reason for the summer events, calling government policy ‘crucial’ to farmers.
Trisha Wagner, farm management program outreach director at the University of Wisconsin-Madison-Extension, said, “Understanding stress and how chronic stress impacts all aspects of life and then learning how to manage stress are essential for one’s health and our rural communities.”
Last month, four policy picnics were held throughout Wisconsin, “to update members on regulatory issues, to collect ideas for policy-related solutions in Madison (DBA) or Washington (Edge), and to encourage members to participate in lobbying efforts.”
Teams from the two groups led discussions on topics including the new Wisconsin state budget, the USCMA as a replacement to the NAFTA trade deal, immigrant labor and the fall congressional agenda.
Nick Woldt, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, said, “These picnics are a chance for the professionals to tell me, the farmer, what they are working on and get my feedback,” and make sure the policies are fair, sensible and conducive to a healthy dairy community.
John Holevoet, director of government affairs for DBA and Edge, said, “This is a great opportunity for us to actually get on the farm and hear directly from farmers as well as our corporate partners about issues they’re facing, including those that are regional or that might otherwise be below the radar because we’re not hearing about them much in Madison or Washington.”
No margin for error
Dairy farmers called the picnic setting “casual, comfortable and efficient,” for fostering discussions and informing farmers on the current situation both at the state and national levels.
Dairy farmer Heidi Fischer said, “Our government officials need to know what is happening here at the farm level and how regulations and proposals can impact our business, especially in today’s market. We don’t have the time or margin for error, so the more proactive you can be, the better.”
DBA and Edge said that members can be as involved in policy issues as they want to be, encouraging them to participate in government hearings and lobbying events. Edge hosts trips to Washington and DBA holds a ‘Dairy Day at the Capitol’ in Madison.
Tim Trotter, executive director of both organizations, said, “I can’t stress enough the importance DBA and Edge see in empowering our members, both by giving them a seat at the table when we are shaping our policy strategies and by giving them tools they can use to engage their government representatives.”
“When our members are willing and able to speak up, lawmakers are likely to listen more closely.”
The picnics took place July 17-18 at ToldYaSo Holsteins Farm in Marshall, Wisconsin, at Cottonwood Dairy in South Wayne, at Minglewood Inc in Deer Park and at Fischer-Clark Dairy Farm in Hatley.
DBA has also recently reached out to its members to remind them of extension resources for dealing with stress. The tools on the University of Wisconsin-Madison site are meant to help farmers, families, businesses and communities “remain resilient by learning how to manage stress by recognizing and working to positively address, not avoid, the causes of stress.”
DBA said, “Those working in rural communities and providing services and support to farmers and their families should also consider completing a course in ‘Mental Health First Aid’ or ‘QPR,’ a suicide prevention program that has been shown to save lives.”