State soybean, corn growers advocate on key issues in Washington

Michelle Stangler
Wisconsin Corn Growers Association board members traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators on key issues impacting the Wisconsin crop farmer. From left, Luke Goessling, James Giese, Rep. Mark Pocan, Doug Rebout, Mike Berget and Jan Tenbensel of Nebraska.

Critical conversations took place last week on Capitol Hill to support additional resources to strengthen the next farm bill, keep markets viable and improve infrastructure channels and transportation.

Wisconsin Soybean Association and Wisconsin Corn Growers Association board members traveled to the nation's capitol with the goal of sharing their viewpoints with lawmakers.

“There are few issues we do differ on, but crop farming is crop farming,” said Doug Rebout of the Wisconsin Soybean Association. Rebout also sits on the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association board.

“We were able to have conversations and stand together on issues and I think we need to do more of that in agriculture because there’s getting to be less and less of us,” said Rebout. "We do need to stand together.”

With the 2023 farm bill looming, Rebout said the legislation is especially critical to farming and agriculture in general.

While stakeholders were able to discuss several key points with legislators, growers have already begun funneling their input on farm bill priorities via virtual listening sessions and an in-depth ASA farm bill survey completed by growers in late 2021.

Topics raised by Wisconsin growers include increased budget monies, maintaining the farm safety net alongside crop insurance and farmer-led conversation programs.

“We, as farmers, are doing everything we can to protect our farms, our environment, the water and everything around there,” said Rebout, emphasizing farmers' commitment to land stewardship and sustainable practices, which includes no-till, minimal till and utilization of cover crops and the judicial use of glyphosate, a widely used herbicide.

“With implementing all of these (practices) and not working the soil up, we need to have glyphosate and herbicides,” said Rebout. "It’s a tool in our toolbox to come in and be able to get rid of the weeds in the field or be able to terminate the cover crop so our corn and soybeans crops can keep growing.”

If the government is successful in taking (glyphosate) away from farmers, it would set farming back 50 years, using cropping practices like his father did back in his time.

Growers learned quickly that each congressman has their own key priorities. Rebout says Rep. Ron Kind of southwestern Wisconsin champions water quality. Additional government regulations could hamper progress made by farmer-led conservation efforts.

“It’s hard to regulate an industry where it’s so different across the state,” said Rebout. "Enforcing regulations would have different impacts on different farms.”

Wisconsin Soybean Association board members also met with representatives and staff members from the offices of Bryan Steil, Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Pocan, Glenn Grothman, Mike Gallagher and Tom Tiffany. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin were also scheduled.

Don Lutz, who grows soybeans and corn on his farm in Scandinavia, Wis., says he's been bending the ears of legislators for over 15 years. He's served as a director on the Wisconsin Soybean Association board and currently serves as a national director of the American Soybean Association. 

Don  Lutz

While soybean growers had many positive conversations with legislators, he says the outcome of of the mid-term election may change the direction of policy.

“The elections are going to end up having a big impact in terms of where some of that national political policy is going to be directed,” said Lutz.

He says one overriding topic brought to the attention of federal lawmakers were the increase of prices on the farm, thanks to a 9.1% inflation rate driving up everything from the price of food to fuel and fertilizer.

“We’re talking about the price of fertilizers going up 200 to 300%, and that includes herbicides as well," Lutz said. "These kinds of numbers are not sustainable.”

Farmers are hard-pressed to plan financially for next year to to price uncertainty, he said. 

“You can’t even get a quote from most places today because there’s no commitment to what the price is going to be,” said Lutz, adding that cooperatives are also trying to run a business and minimize costs.

Lutz also expressed his concern for the future of agriculture, especially attracting young people into the industry.