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We need to talk: Three policy conversations you should be engaged in

Mykel Wedig for Progressive Dairy Published on 10 February 2021

The first few months in a new presidential administration is a pivotal time for developing its priorities and shaping them into future policies.

Agriculture plays a big part in President Biden’s priorities so far, and it is important that the people who will have to comply with the rules are also part of the conversation. Constructive engagement is the only way to move the needle, and we need all hands on deck.

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Here are three areas where Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative sees potential for action in 2021:

1. Immigration

A large percentage of farms utilize visa programs for their workforce. In the past few years, we have seen farmworker visa reform bills get off the ground, only to be deflated by stalemates or upcoming elections. There is real opportunity in 2021 to get this across the finish line, but it is essential that any proposal is workable for our farmers. If you have experience using farmworker visa programs, call your member of Congress, or talk to an organization that represents you in Washington, D.C., and offer constructive feedback about your experiences with the programs.

2. Climate change

A near consensus has emerged that legislation is needed for climate change, but ideas on what that will look like vary widely. Most agricultural-related climate conversations are now focused on programs and carbon banks. Many in the agriculture community believe that incentive-based programs administered locally are key to the success of any climate program. Collaborative farmer-led conservation efforts, like those supported by Edge, are great templates to highlight.

There are also many private carbon markets now in use. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has been working on the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which would create a voluntary carbon market for producers. Additionally, the Biden administration is working on a proposal to create a carbon bank using the Commodity Credit Corporation, a pot of money that the Department of Agriculture has in its toolkit that can be used for virtually anything that would increase farm profitability. If you have been involved in the creation  or utilization of carbon markets, your experience will be indispensable.

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3. Trade

There was a huge shift in trade policy during former President Trump’s administration. Agriculture took the brunt of the trade wars, and the administration responded with Market Facilitation Program payments to keep farmers afloat. The new administration has vowed to continue to be tough on China and is holding off on more trade agreements until the pandemic is under control in the U.S.

In the immediate future, it’s important that the Biden administration continues its trade action against Canada, ensuring the country lives up to its dairy tariff rate quota commitments made in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. It is also important to keep beating the drum on expanding our trade agreements, creating more markets for our efficient, safe supply of U.S. dairy products.

Now, it’s your turn to start the conversation. We need constructive engagement with decision-makers. We need farmers and dairy community members to call, write, tweet, e-mail or host a lawmaker and share ideas and challenges you’ve experienced. They must hear it from the source. If there is a time to be engaged in agricultural policy, 2021 is the year.

This series is brought to you by the Dairy Business Association on behalf of the Dairy Strong conference, Jan. 19-20, 2022. This event focuses on cutting-edge technology, cultural trends and the future of the dairy community. Click here to learn more about Dairy Strong.  end mark

Mykel Wedig
  • Mykel Wedig

  • Associate Director of Government Affairs
  • Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative
  • Email Mykel Wedig

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