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WIFE unites farm women to speak out for agriculture

PD Editor Karen Lee Published on 09 April 2009

Over 30 years ago, a group of farm women in Nebraska recognized a need to speak up for agriculture and formed Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE). Today, it is a national organization with local chapters and state associations in 15 states across the country.

“Most of our members are ladies who get the dirt under their fingernails,” says Tammy Basel, national WIFE president from Union Center, South Dakota.

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These farm women devote time away from their daily chores to come together and serve the industry.

WIFE is dedicated to improving profitability in production agriculture through educational, legislative, communicative and cooperative efforts. It is policy-oriented and non-partisan.

From an educational standpoint, WIFE members organize field trips and learning opportunities for youth in their states and communities.

Youth education is a benefit to all of agriculture, Basel says, because it will help people understand where their food and fiber come from.

WIFE members also strive to educate themselves to be factual and professional when communicating on agricultural issues.

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They take part in legislative work and recently sent members to Washington, D.C., for subcommittee hearings on animal identification and rural broadband Internet connections.

Basel says that as a multi-commodity group a lot of doors open to them for others to hear what they have to say. “We are a strong voice of agriculture and a voice of reason.”

“There are so few of us left in agriculture, we should all work together,” she adds.

In order to keep tabs on what is happening with various commodities, WIFE has national chairwomen of each, ranging from dairy and beef to energy and rural health. The chair members write newsletter articles each month to keep all members abreast of what’s happening in their areas.

Dianna Reed serves WIFE as the national dairy chair woman. Reed and her husband farm with their son and daughter-in-law in Esbon, Kansas. They milk 100 cows and grow feed for the dairy.

Reed keeps an eye on what dairy initiatives are taking place in the legislature and identifies the issues the organization is able to address. If the measure is good for dairy, WIFE will stand in support of it. If the measure is not good for dairy producers, they state their opposition and the reasoning behind it.

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Currently, WIFE is involved in dairy-related legislation regarding gas emissions and animal identification. They’ve also just started to deal with issues regarding the disposal of animals that could pose health concerns and increased costs for producers and rendering plants, Reed reports.

In terms of dairy education, WIFE works to educate consumers that dairy products are healthy and to encourage consumers to purchase U.S. products. Their message is clear: “We need dairy farms here in the U.S., and everyone needs to support them,” Reed says.

“So many people think all you do is go out to the barn and milk a cow,” she says. “Education is really the key to getting more dairy issues out into the public.”

Reed enjoys her involvement in WIFE because it keeps her informed of what’s happening in other aspects of agriculture besides dairy, like the beef, sheep, goat and feed industries. Sometimes items come up in legislatures that affect multiple commodities and WIFE members from various farm enterprises are able to work together to address them.

The national organization gathers three times a year, including a fly-in to Washington, D.C., to talk with political leaders and influencers.

At member events, the organization offers leadership and communications workshops and a time to come together as women in agriculture, sharing stories and offering camaraderie.

“We understand each other in a way that women in the city wouldn’t,” Basel says.

In addition to working together within the organization, WIFE reaches out to other agricultural and non-agricultural organizations in a cooperative effort to reach a better understanding of shared concerns. PD

Visit www.wifeline.com for more information on WIFE.

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