Wisconsin Farm Bureau well represented at national convention

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
AFBF Vice President Scott Vander Wal pictured with Calumet County Farm Bureau members Gloria and Simon Regan. Calumet County Farm Bureau’s ‘Meet Your Local Farmer’ event was recognized as a winner in the County Activities of Excellence competition.

With 50 Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation members attending the American Farm Bureau Federation convention Jan. 17-22 in Austin, Texas, Wisconsin was well-represented. 

Green County Farm Bureau president, Ben Huber represented Wisconsin in the Excellence in Agriculture competition and Green County member Rachel Leege in the Discussion Meet. Travis and Krista Klinkner of Vernon County represented Wisconsin in the American Farm Bureau Achievement Award contest. Calumet County Farm Bureau's 'Meet Your Local Farmer' event was recognized as a winner in the County Activities of Excellence competition. 

Green County Farm Bureau president Ben Huber (left) of Green County represented Wisconsin in the Excellence in Agriculture Award at the AFBF Annual Convention.

But one of the things WFBF President Joe Bragger took away from the weekend was the engagement of the members who were able to meet other Farm Bureau members from around the country. 

Farm Bureau members across the country face some of the same challenges, such as water quality issues, broadband and issues faced by the dairy industry. But in the end, members from across the country came to the convention to set policy for all Farm Bureau members. 

"We take the grassroots policy that’s shaped, for example in Wisconsin, and we take that to DC," Bragger explained during a media round table on Jan. 23. "I think overall with everything happening, we had pretty good success — almost a 100% score on the policies that our state members pushed forward getting them implemented at a national level."

Wisconsin moved 17 policy changes at the national level, leading the way with 12 dairy policy changes. 

"We’re America’s dairy land and obviously that’s a huge focus this year, so we had a lot of things come through in that area," said Bragger.

Rachel Leege (right) participated in two rounds of discussion with other young farmers and ranchers from across the country talking about topics like cell- and plant-based meat alternatives and solutions to agricultural labor at the American Farm Bureau convention.

Some of those policy changes involved looking at federal milk marketing reform, more transparency at pricing and improving the products — looking at getting some higher value products listed.

Other issues being considered are adopting the California milk standards where the butterfat percentages could be increased to move large amounts of milk, Bragger said. 

There is also discussion and more support than ever for farmer and industry led milk management system "that might look at various options out there in which we can help support the price that the farmers are getting by controlling some of the surplus," Bragger said. 

"While we’ve had tough times, we’ve had a lot of optimism right now for the future and our ability to make a difference," said Bragger. "We have great members and the way I saw them step up like never before, I have strong faith in our future."    

One of the highlights for Bragger was attending the U.S. China trade agreement with five other AFBF members, sitting with representatives from Boeing, Ford and some of the largest companies in the U.S. "but agriculture was sitting right at the table with them."

Travis and Krista Klinkner of Vernon County represented Wisconsin in the American Farm Bureau Achievement Award contest. The Klinkners are organic dairy farmers from Genoa.  Participants for this contest must earn a majority of their income from on-farm operations and are evaluated on their understanding of current issues affecting agriculture and leadership and involvement in Farm Bureau and other civic organizations.

"I thought that was quite a big deal but when you find out that by golly there has never been an agreement with China before…that was quite impressive," Bragger said. "There is a real appreciation for farmers out there, what we do every day, especially with the issues we’ve had the last four to five years and the attention drawn on that, and the value everyone sees on us being food independent. From a standpoint of national security, from a standpoint of food safety, it’s great that everyone recognizes the importance of the American farmer."

Carol Spaeth-Bauer at 262-875-9490 or carol.spaeth-bauer@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at cspaethbauer or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carol.spaethbauer.