By Mary Hookham, for Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative
When times are turbulent, like they are today for dairy farmers, it is good to know that someone has your back.
Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative reminded its members of this at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., when the co-op provided a deep-dive update on federal policy issues that affect farmers.
“We count on Edge to advocate for us in Washington and we appreciate knowing they’re doing just that,” Raynelle Mueller, a dairy farmer from Big Stone City, S.D., said.
Mueller and her husband, Bill, attended the Oct. 4 presentation, which was led by Edge’s lobbyist in Washington, Michael Torrey of Michael Torrey Associates. Torrey, a veteran of Capitol Hill, gave members his insider’s view on trade, tariff aid, workforce issues, dairy labeling, school milk programs and the divisive political environment.
Trade deals and retaining a quality workforce are top issues of concern for Columbus, Wis., dairy farmer Roger Weiland.
Weiland said he is grateful for the good people who have worked with him on his farm over the years, but it continues to be difficult to find and retain employees.
Torrey said it is hard to understand why the availability of labor is not talked about more in the debate over the economy.
“One of the biggest drags on our economy is the availability of labor,” he said. “Edge has been incredibly involved and we want to retain existing workers and have a pathway for recruiting new workers.”
Weiland is also keeping tabs on trade policies, including the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which has yet to move through Congress.
“Obviously it’s an agreement that’s very important,” Torrey said. “We know that the USMCA, if passed, will give a big boost to our economy; it’ll add more than $68 billion.”
The Muellers and their family milk 60 registered Holsteins. Raynelle sometimes wonders if there’s hope left for small-scale farmers to remain profitable and sustainable. Her membership in Edge gives her confidence.
“Edge caters to all-size dairy operations, and when we get updates and interact with other members and staff, we are hopeful our small farm is still relevant in the industry,” she said.
Weiland feels better knowing that Edge is in his corner.
“Change is going to continue and it isn’t going to be easy for any of us,” he said. “We truly need help from Edge to work for and watch out for us. Knowing there are people on our side who are speaking up for us, it helps. We have peace of mind from this.”