DBA’s Government Affairs Committee has members from across the state and generally meets via conference call once per month. In mid-October, the group met in person at the Wisconsin State Capitol. The meeting was another great example of how DBA’s policy work is member-driven.
Getting the group together allowed some members to meet each other face-to-face for the first time. That is good for building a more cohesive committee and it will help members open up more on future calls. At the same time, we were able to combine our normal business meeting, which consists of updates on our current lobbying work and discussion of new bills or emerging issues, with some direct lobbying by committee members.
The group had a roundtable discussion with two lawmakers, Senator Rob Cowles (R – Green Bay) and Representative Joel Kitchens (R – Sturgeon Bay). Both served on the Speaker’s Task Force for Water Quality. They are also the co-authors of SB 91, a bill that would create a water quality credit clearinghouse to make trading such credits easier. DBA has been a longtime supporter of that bill. We see it as a way to build partnerships for water quality and help fund farmer-led conservation projects.
The committee got to discuss water quality concerns and the water quality trading bill directly with its authors. There was also a lively question-and-answer session with questions being asked by the lawmakers and committee members alike. Topics included the state of the farm economy, global dairy trade, farm labor concerns and challenges posed by the weather.
Following our business meeting, the committee members and DBA President Tom Crave, divided up into two groups and did office visits throughout the Capitol with DBA staff. We talked with lawmakers about the proposed revisions to the livestock siting rule and the new targeted performance standard for nitrates that Governor Evers is seeking. We also talked about legislative priorities that are still left unfinished. These included the water quality trading bill mentioned above; new bills to safeguard the proper labeling of milk, dairy products and meat; and proposed legislation to create a driver’s permit for non-citizens.
One other bill that we talked about during our meetings would ensure that the formula for calculating the manufacturing and ag tax credit also includes crop insurance payments. I’m singling out this legislation for particular attention because it is an idea that grew out of comments we heard from DBA members at a policy picnic a year ago. We put those members in touch with a lawmaker that we thought would be helpful in addressing the problem. Now, we have a bill that’s been introduced and is making its way through the legislature.
After 14 meetings, the two groups reunited to debrief and share insights gathered from their conversations. Government Affairs Committee members discussed how some of the feedback we received from lawmakers might shape our talking points and priorities going forward.
I appreciate this group giving of its time to help us lobby at the Capitol. Even more important is the input they provide throughout the policy formation process. At DBA, there is a no black box where policy decisions are made in secret. Instead, we rely directly on our members to help us determine what our priorities should be and how we should go about accomplishing our goals.
When we lobby on an issue, there are normally several different decision points. At each of them, member input is invaluable. If you are interested in being more involved with our government affairs work, please contact me. We want to represent you well, but that means we need to hear your feedback regarding the work we do.