2020: A Year to Remember

Joe Bragger

In 2019, we celebrated 100 years of Wisconsin Farm Bureau. What a way to start a new century than to have 2020 hit us with its challenges.

We met those challenges head-on like farmers do, with a commitment to deal with uncertainty and move forward.

I have a treasured book, "The Farm Bureau Through Three Decades" by Orville Merton Kile. This well-worn book has '1948, Wilmer J. Rosenow' written on the cover.

Wilmer served as Buffalo County Farm Bureau president. What makes it special are the notes stuck inside, meeting dates and "Don't forget to pay the Ernie Reck Polka Bank $80 for annual meeting."

The book was found in the garage of another Buffalo County Farm Bureau President Charlie Ripley by his son Edward Ripley, the current county president.

Farm Bureau is in our past, present and future. There is no doubt that our present is a difficult time. This year, Farm Bureau members have been instrumental to our success.

As our membership struggled with stress and uncertainty from the downturn in the agriculture economy and COVID-19, I am inspired by the actions to help others and their communities.

Farm Bureau's success rallies around its members and county leadership. I want to share just some of these stories with you.

At the onset of the pandemic and a desire to help food pantries, Buffalo County members worked through the Pepin County Dairy Promotions Board to distribute 2,400 gallons of milk and 1,000 pounds of cheese to food pantries and hosted drive-by milk and cheese giveaways.

The Green County board of directors contributed funds to the Brodhead FFA 80 Gallon challenge to support the community.

Dane County members continued to support their mission of farm safety by hosting a virtual screening of SILO followed by a question and answer session. They donated six rescue coffer dams and trained thousands.

Ozaukee County received a $20,000 donation to help farmers. Board members identified and distributed the funds locally.

Racine County worked with Kwik Trip. They provided coupons for dairy products and held a cream puff sale.

Iowa County hosted a steak-and-burger night in place of its Farmer Appreciation Day. Two thousand dollars were raised and distributed to the Pointer Pantry, which provides meals to students in need.

Grant County worked with a processor to provide beef to food pantries.

Winnebago County hosted a drive-by steak fry to promote beef while sharing goodwill and awareness of Farm Bureau.

Shawano County had started planning the Brunch on the Farm but it was canceled. To promote agriculture, they worked with sponsors to send 500 letters to farmers that included $10 in chamber bucks, thank-you cards from students and a Culver's gift card.

District 8 created an Agriculture Emergency Incident Guide that allows people to volunteer during emergencies safely and effectively. Members co-hosted a program for firefighters, first responders and police regarding livestock handling.

District 8 also led the effort to delist wolves.

Members in District 6 presented more than $6,000 in scholarships to students.

Members in Rusk and Sawyer County have worked for years on wildlife damage. Early this year, members testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee about the importance of changes to the wildlife damage program.

Rural Mutual Insurance agents also helped their communities with donations and collaborative efforts to help farmers and their customers.

WFBF and Rural Mutual formed the Farm Food Support Fund to help those in need. The fund provides support to farmers and encourages consumption of milk and agricultural products to ensure that farmers have a place to sell products, and provide Wisconsinites access to nutritious, high-quality foods.

While I can't recognize all of the activities, everyone did their part. We are proud to be a Farm Bureau family that even as we struggle, we support our communities and agriculture. That's who we are because that's how we started.

It's amazing, yet not surprising, after the examples that the name Farm Bureau comes from a community.

In 1911, the Binghamton New York Chamber of Commerce believed that for a community to do well those that supported it had to do well. This led to creating a group of farmers who gathered with the name Farm Bureau after other bureaus in the chamber of commerce. They knew what farmers and Farm Bureau could mean to the community. This became the first Farm Bureau in the nation: Brome County Farm Bureau.

From the beginning of our organization and even today, our members lead by example while advancing policy to create more opportunities for farmers to be proud members of their rural communities.

I'm certain that if we wish to go forward, we must go forward together.

Joe Bragger

Bragger was elected president of Wisconsin Farm Bureau in 2019 and served through 2020. Bragger is a dairy and poultry farmer from Independence.