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Dairy Strong Bloggers: Four takeaways from Ana Navarro at Dairy Strong

Maria Woldt for Progressive Dairyman Published on 01 March 2018
Ana Navarro speaking at Dairy Strong

This past January, Republican strategist and CNN political analyst Ana Navarro spoke to a packed house at the Dairy Strong conference. She referred to the Republican Party as “a big, dysfunctional family around the holiday table.” Since most farms are family businesses, I, like most in the audience, was instantly hooked.

In addition to being hilarious, Navarro was blunt about the challenges the Trump administration faces when it comes to the agriculture community. Here are a few key takeaways from her session:

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Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

It’s rare to be 100 percent satisfied with every decision made by politicians. As a farmer myself, policies that impact farming and rural life are important to me – and I’m sure they are important to you, too. We know that rural Republican voters helped Trump and many in the House and Senate win their most recent elections. So why are we seeing anti-trade and anti-immigration policy that will hurt the dairy community? As I’m writing this, the USDA is on the chopping block too. During her talk, Navarro said it best, “Are we prepared to see workers pulled from our farms and what the ramifications of that would be? Make sure [lawmakers] hear your voice.”

Sound on

As Navarro suggests, if you don’t like what you are hearing from the people who represent you, you must contact them. I work off the farm, and for an advocacy group at that, so this seems fairly easy for me. Plus, I’m a communicator by trade, so even easier. But for farmers, this is a challenge. I’ll use my husband as an example. He’s busy on the farm all day with very few breaks. It’s not realistic for him to dial up his legislator and tell them “what’s good.” But he reads the papers every day, listens to news radio and watches our local news. I can be the one to call the legislator’s office. Also, we are members of advocacy and trade organizations who speak on our behalf.

So, if you are comfortable calling your legislator, you should absolutely do that. If you don’t have time, ask a family member to do it. Either way, find a dairy association with a direct line to legislators and pay your dues.

Broken record

I get multiple emails every day from various sources talking about immigration reform. At Dairy Strong, Navarro spent the bulk of her time on this subject. She didn’t think that Trump’s promise to build a wall along the Mexican border was realistic but agreed that the threat may be all it takes to scare workers in the dairy community.

When are our elected officials going to do something about this? How many more times can we as dairy farmers ask, beg and plead? I found it very telling that there were two sessions at Dairy Strong about robots. The sessions were led by two different companies, with different approaches, but the key takeaway was along the lines of “Hey farmers, you know how you thought that robots couldn’t work for you? Maybe they actually can!” Is this where we are? Are farmers just supposed to move toward automation because we can’t find a labor solution?

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It’s like watching Mean Girls

I was graduating college when the epic tale of high school cattiness, Mean Girls, hit the big screen. Watching our political news cycle play out is legitimately a scene from this movie. (I still have the DVD).

“There’s a lot of blame going on now in Washington,” Navarro said. “Trump blames everyone, the House blames the Senate and the Senate blames Trump, who blames everyone else. He then goes on to attack someone on Twitter to distract everyone.”

OK, so maybe this makes for entertaining TV, but these are actual elected leaders. Aren’t they supposed to be smart and professional? The sad part about it is that constituents are starting to disengage because they can’t take the noise. I look around my rural Wisconsin neighborhood, and people are looking the other way when it comes to politics because it’s so distracting.

Navarro didn’t hold back during her session. Judging by the body language of the audience, she was just saying what many have been thinking during the last year. Without a doubt, she challenged the audience’s perspective, which is good.  end mark

The Dairy Strong Bloggers series is brought to you on behalf of the Dairy Strong conference, Jan. 23-24, 2019, in Madison, Wisconsin. This event focuses on cutting-edge technology, cultural trends and the future of the dairy community. Learn more and register at the Dairy Strong website.

Maria Woldt is the director of industry relations for the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association. She and her husband, Nick, also milk 60 cows in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

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PHOTO: Ana Navarro spoke to dairy farmers at the 2018 Dairy Strong conference. Photo provided by Wisconsin Dairy Business Association.

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