In a rarely visited part of the Capitol in Madison, you can find vending machines. This is where you can buy soda or a candy bar. Despite its importance to the state’s economy, milk is not on offer. In the more public parts of the building, dairy can feel similarly ignored. Thanks to our members, DBA is making sure that does not happen.
On April 10, we held our first annual Dairy Day at the Capitol. This allowed us to connect with lawmakers and make the case for policy priorities that matter to the future of dairy farming in our state. This allowed us to send a strong reminder to state leaders about the importance of the Wisconsin’s dairy community and the commitment of the people who drive America’s Dairyland.
DBA members and staff filled the Joint Finance Committee room at the Capitol for the morning session.
Participating members, a mix of farmers and corporate members, heard from Gov. Tony Evers and Brad Pfaff, the state agriculture secretary designee, along with leaders in both houses of the Legislature and the leadership of the Assembly and Senate agriculture committees.
After lunch, the group got to hear a political update from Gwyn Guenther, the editor of the Wheeler Report. This email-based publication remains one of the most read news sources in the Wisconsin Capitol. Guenther was able to update participants on the state of play for the state budget and shed light on how recent political tension could shape their discussions with lawmakers.
Armed with the latest political intelligence, attendees split up into teams to cover 46 legislative meetings. By the end of the day, we had touched base with two-thirds of the state Senate and nearly half of all Assembly members. Having this number of contacts in just one day was truly powerful. Those we met with ranged from our staunchest allies to new members with little agriculture experience.
All got to hear about our top legislative and budget priorities. This includes our support for the nutrient-trading bill, creating a driver permit for non-citizens, funding dairy research at the University of Wisconsin and addressing transportation funding. The topic of water quality was also top of mind. We were able to talk about what farmers are already doing in this area, but also discuss what else can be done to ensure clean water for everyone.
This type of lobbying effort, with members taking center stage, does the most to open the eyes and ears of lawmakers as they make decisions that affect our day-to-day life in the dairy community. No matter how polished a lobbyist’s presentation is, it will never be as impactful as a constituent sharing a personal story about how an issue or piece of legislation touches your farm or business.
At the end of the day, our strength is our members. Your experience and stories matter. This year’s Dairy Day at the Capitol was just one part of an overall strategy to lead from our base. Transparent organizations with active and engaged membership will always be better positioned to be successful on policy. DBA is on this path and we are fortunate that so many of you are willing to join us.