Edge is a consistent voice for policies that will help advance dairy farming throughout the U.S. We monitor economic, regulatory and legislative developments at the state and federal levels that could affect our farmers. We partner with other national and regional dairy advocacy groups so we can pool our influence for positive changes. Here are some of the issues on which we work:
Dairy farms face a shortage of workers. There are multiple reasons, including a shrinking rural workforce and difficulty recruiting native-born employees. Our farms have come to rely more on immigrant labor. For the good of our farmers, there needs to be a way for them to protect their existing workforce while also having opportunities to hire new foreign workers who are legally authorized to work. The current agriculture visa only permits seasonal employment, which works for those who need help during harvest, but not dairy farmers who need assistance year-round. Several proposals would help, such as the expansion of the current ag visa criteria, the creation of a new long-term ag visa or the delegation of some visa powers to states so they can target industries most in need of workers. Edge will be supportive of any of these improvements.
Dairy farmers, like other Wisconsinites, value clean and safe ground and surface water. We rely on a quality supply of groundwater for our farms and our families. We appreciate our streams, rivers and lakes for their beauty, economic importance, and the recreational opportunities they provide. Our team helps farmers provide their input on policies that affects their farms. Edge also promotes how modern farming practices and technology have evolved and will continue to evolve to address water quality concerns. Edge is continuously monitoring proposed and potential regulations from the state and federal that are meant to address water quality concerns. We will work to ensure any new rules are manageable, practical, and will be effective. We know farmers are willing to do their part to address real concerns, but they cannot shoulder the entire effort alone.
Better Access to Global Markets
It is no coincidence that record milk prices coincided with strong dairy exports. A contraction in exports was followed by a very steep decline in prices. One of the best things the dairy community could do to ensure higher and more stable pricing is to continue to grow our place in the global market. Despite a growing amount of anti-trade rhetoric, freer and fairer trade is in our best interest. Edge supports the passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership and other agreements that would give our farmers and dairy processors better access to foreign markets. Edge has also played a role in fighting against non-tariff trade barriers proposed by the Canadian government that would further disrupt and depress the milk price in the U.S.
Regulatory Overreach by the EPA
Since its creation in 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has helped to improve the environment we share in a number of notable ways. Unfortunately, it also has created ever more burdensome regulations. The new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule and Clean Power Plan are two examples of sweeping regulatory proposals made during the Obama Administration. Both are being challenged in the courts, but their possible implementation would have a significant impact on our farmers. Edge will continue to fight for reasonable regulations that consider the increased cost or burden they could place on businesses like our farms.
Well-maintained infrastructure is crucially important to the dairy community. Dairy farmers depend on a good road network to ship their milk to processors and for the processors to get the food out on grocers’ selves. Farmers are also dependent on these roads to move equipment needed to plant, grow and harvest the crops used to feed their animals. The rural roads where many of the dairy farms are located are deteriorating and cannot handle modern farm equipment’s size. These roads often either need significant repair or to be totally replaced. Our interstate highways also need a significant investment to modernize that system. Farmers need a sustainable way to pay for state and federally funded infrastructure projects.
Mislabeling of Non-Dairy Products
Our store shelves are already full of so-called almond and soy “milk.” The number of products made from plants that attempt to mimic true dairy foods is expected to grow dramatically over the next decade. There may be room for everyone in the marketplace, but it is wrong for customers to be misled. First of all, the dairy community and our various check-off programs should ensure that the public understands how these new items are nutritionally inferior to real dairy foods. Some of these non-dairy imitations are carefully labeled to address any confusion, but many are not. Indeed, some are already in violation of existing labeling laws. Edge will pressure federal agencies to enforce the laws so customers are protected and dairy foods are not unfairly disadvantaged.