A message from Tom Crave and Brody Stapel
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
From Tom Crave, DBA president and Brody Stapel, Edge president
What a difference three months have made.
Believe it or not, it was only in March that the COVID-19 national emergency was declared. Things went haywire quickly, turning the world upside down and erasing the optimism that we all had heading into 2020.
Fortunately, the situation looks much different today. Milk prices are climbing, many farms are back up to full production and most have had a terrific planting season. We hope we have turned the corner and will not have to turn back.
Certainly, many farmers are still in recovery mode. The fallout from the pandemic was terrible for a lot of members, devastating for some.
What you have experienced has been described as unprecedented.
We want you to know that the same can be said of the efforts of the Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative to support you. From Day 1 of this crisis, the staff and boards of directors did, and continue to do, everything possible to meet the challenges of the time, and your expectations.
The results of this work could not be clearer today as checks to farmers from the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program have begun arriving.
When everything blew up, DBA and Edge moved aggressively on a number of fronts to protect you, quickly but carefully determining where to put our energy for the greatest positive impact. We stayed laser-focused even as other dairy organizations called for dangerously altering existing farm programs. We strongly believe that making systemic changes during a crisis would create unintended damaging consequences down the road.
We want to share some of our key areas of focus:
Financial assistance and food purchases
A little more than just two weeks after the president declared the national emergency, DBA and Edge called for direct cash assistance and government purchases of dairy foods. Through our sustained advocacy, in part, millions of dollars in desperately needed money is now flowing to our members, supply is moving and millions of out-of-work people unable to afford nutritious food are getting it. On the financial assistance, we sought a program that would benefit all sizes of farms and we pushed back to increase the original payment limits.
Federal Milk Marketing Order
Our organizations acted swiftly against a proposal to significantly modify the Federal Milk Marketing Order system by artificially inflating the Class I fluid milk price. This would have worked against members’ interests by disrupting critically important risk management programs and creating an unequal playing field. Nearly all of our members’ milk is used for Class III (cheese). DBA and Edge were among only a few dairy groups, including the International Dairy Foods Association and Minnesota Milk Producers Association, that stood up in opposition to the idea, and the USDA rejected it.
State of Wisconsin
Specific to Wisconsin, DBA was actively engaged in helping coordinate the state’s response to the crisis. This included championing a direct aid-to-farmers program, dealing with the legal requirements surrounding the disposal of milk, and working to keep the dairy and beef supply chains up and running. We carved out as much money as possible that was designated for Wisconsin from the CARES Act, leveraging the combined strength of a number of other commodity groups to secure $50 million. We proposed something achievable given the many other pressures on that pot of money, and the governor met our request.
One-on-one member help
As you would imagine, members have had a lot of questions. We have individually helped dozens of you navigate the various aid programs and manage efforts to keep your employees safe and healthy. A ton of research has gone into ensuring that our members understand the practical effects of all the legislation and guidelines. And oftentimes we have simply provided an empathetic ear.
Making sure you have the most important information, at the right time, has been a top priority for DBA and Edge. We have used email alerts, a special webpage, webinars, social media and extra episodes of our Dairy Stream podcast to get you resources. We have also engaged the news media so people around the country understand the impact of the pandemic on the dairy community. The staff have had more than 70 conversations with reporters and have arranged local, state and national interviews for our members and leadership.
We want to note a few of the things the crisis has demonstrated.
It showed just how well lawmakers and policymakers — from Wisconsin to Washington — know and respect DBA and Edge. They not only listen to us but seek us out for expertise and the perspective of you, our members. That relationship is built through consistent hard work, and not just during crises.
The pandemic also has highlighted the importance of the relationship between DBA and Edge. As sister organizations, we leverage our strengths for your benefit, particularly in fighting for effective dairy policy — DBA at the state Capitol and Edge on Capitol Hill.
And, through the hardship, you have yet again demonstrated your resiliency. It’s extraordinary but not surprising. That is just what farmers do — adjust, keep pushing, find a way.
DBA and Edge have always been proud to support you, especially when you most need support. This commitment will not change regardless of what lies ahead.
You will always come first as we raise the voice of milk and move dairy forward.