Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative hopes for working relationship with new Biden administration

Wisconsin State Farmer
Michael Torrey

Farm legislation expert Michael Torrey, who works with Edge Dairy Cooperative on Midwest dairy advocacy and federal policy, shared his expectations for how farmers will be affected by the Joe Biden administration beginning in January.

Torrey said some things are unlikely to change, including immigration policies that help farms keep their existing seasonal workers, as well as sweeping environmental regulations given the Senate retains a Republican majority. President-elect Biden has promised to rejoin the Paris Accord, an international environmental policy agreement from which President Trump withdrew the US last year.

The Senate only needs one more seat to regain control they've had since 2014 – the last two seats up for grabs are both in runoff elections in Georgia, which will happen this January. The House of Representatives will remain controlled by Democrats.

And speaking of elections, US Rep. Collin Peterson, D-MN, was ousted from his office after almost 30 years, with 13 of those years spent as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Torrey said Peterson understands dairy farmers and policy better than almost any Democrat or Republican.

"There are going to be a lot of new faces, there is going to be new philosophy (and) going to be new leadership," Torrey said during a video conference with Edge members. "So, it is important to be engaged in Washington, D.C."

In addition to advocating for dairy farmers, Torrey has also worked as a private attorney as the principal and founder of Michael Torrey Associates. He also served as advisor to Bob Dole, who ran for president under the Republican ticket in the 80's and 90's, and as deputy chief of staff at the US Department of Agriculture.

Torrey added that he expects changes in international trade, especially the country's relationship with China, which has been through tumultuous times since President Trump began a trade war and levied heavy tariffs on China. Torrey said Trump has been keen to utilize tariffs as his only trade tool, whereas Biden will take a "multi-lateral approach."

It's also unlikely that the new administration will act on dairy mislabeling, Torrey said, which has been a contentious issue for dairy farmers as they claim plant-based products using the terms milk and cheese are misleading consumers about the health nutrition benefits of dairy products. 

Tim Trotter

"The voices of Edge’s dairy farmers and processors matter to decision-makers in Washington, so providing our members with those opportunities is a top priority," said Tim Trotter, Edge's executive director. "The more we all speak up and convey who we are and what matters most on the farms and in the processing plants, the more of a positive impact we will have for the dairy community."

Trotter said there are upcoming opportunities for members of the dairy industry to voice their concerns to lawmakers, including "Dairy Speaks in D.C.," a series of pilgrimages to Capitol Hill with Edge. Many top officials also make farm visits in Wisconsin, like USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue did in October.

Trotter said it's important for Edge members to get involved with their advocacy efforts, including serving on the policy committee and using the VoterVoice tool to make their ideas heard on specific proposals.