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Jim Holte will serve as the new Wisconsin Farm president.

Jim Holte will serve as the new Wisconsin Farm president. Photo By Casey Langan

Holte to serve as Farm Bureau’s new president

Dec. 13, 2012 | 0 comments


"This is quite a change for my daily schedule," said Jim Holte, the new president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau as he talked with reporters for the first time after being chosen to lead the farm organization.

He takes over for Bill Bruins who decided to retire from his position as Farm Bureau president after serving for nine years.

Holte, who raises beef and crops near Elk Mound, in Dunn County, said he feels a sense of responsibility and a challenge in taking over the reins of the organization, but doesn’t foresee the need to make a lot of changes in its direction.

"I don’t know if the president really changes what the organization is about but I will be working with a strong board of directors and they will lead the charge."

Holte has been a member of the board since 1995. He said he looks forward to sharing his positive outlook on agriculture. Fellow board members chose him to lead the organization Dec. 3.

A former dairy farmer, Holte said he milked cows from the time he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls until 1997 when health issues forced him to change the farm into a cash grain and feeder-to-finish enterprise.

He raises both beef breed and Holstein dairy steers and grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa on his 460 acres.

Holte said his normal daily schedule is to "feed cattle, bed cattle and haul manure. And that’s a very good day."

He’s often asked who works for him on his farm and he usually responds with "the guy who wears my shoes" but adds that his brother-in-law Rob Strand has been his go-to guy and right-hand man even though he has a full-time job.

Now that he has taken leadership of the Farm Bureau, Holte said he will probably look for additional help on the farm.

He understands that dairy is a priority in Wisconsin policy and "it always has been. Wisconsin is dairy. It ranks right up there. We need a positive business climate for dairy and all of agriculture."

Holte said he agrees with his predecessor that "it is long past due for an updated dairy policy" in this country and he supports the dairy title of the proposed farm bill.

In Wisconsin, transportation and the funding to support it will also be priorities in the coming legislative session, he added.

Holte has been chairman of the state Livestock Siting Review Board, a group that has been called upon to rule in cases where livestock facilities expansions or new construction have been opposed by local residents.

Working with that seven-member group has given him a great deal of perspective. The members of the siting board have wide-ranging backgrounds but all share a commitment to agriculture and the state. He said he would be giving some thought in coming days as to his position on that board.

He also represents Farm Bureau on the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium — the entity that oversees livestock premises registration for the state. His leadership resume includes service on the citizen policy board to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Holte is also a past president of the Wisconsin Beef Council.

Rural schools are important to him, Holte said, with a wife who is in education, a daughter who is a teacher and having served on the school board himself for a number of years.

"There needs to be a statewide conversation about how we can serve all schools in the state."

Holte served as his county’s Farm Bureau president in the early 1990s for five years and then stepped away from that kind of involvement until he participated in what was then called the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program. That was an experience that really had an impact on him.

Afterward he ran for and was elected to the Farm Bureau board.

The Rural Leadership program was a very important part of his leadership training, Holte said, and he saw it as an opportunity to step outside the bounds he had been in. The program gave him a wide view through the year-long experience.

While in the program he and his class of 30 people visited Hungary and Turkey. He calls it a "life-changing experience" seeing the desperation and optimism that can exist in a country like Turkey.

"We saw an orphanage in Istanbul and those pictures will never leave my mind."

Farm Bureau vice president Dick Gorder, a dairy farmer from Mineral Point, had also expressed interest in serving as president of Farm Bureau. He was re-elected vice president when the board met following the group’s annual meeting in Wisconsin Dells.

Under Bruins, Farm Bureau added a director of operations and Holte said it will be the decision of the board if that position goes forward, but he expects that it will. Current operations director Roger Cliff announced that he would retire in the coming year under a transition plan that the board has planned.

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