As state legislative bodies across the country gathered to tackle important local issues, Land O’Lakes member-owners converged on state capitols to advocate on issues impacting the agriculture industry and rural communities.
In February, member-owners attended several meetings with legislators at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. Land O’Lakes, in partnership with the Iowa Institute for Cooperatives, convened this Co-op Day at the Capitol to ensure producers and ag retailers had an opportunity to share their stories with policymakers about how increasing costs are impacting their operations.
As economic constraints reverberate in Americans everyday life, the agriculture industry faces many challenges such as supply chain bottlenecks, global conflicts, labor shortages, and elevated transportation costs, making it difficult to keep the farm economy moving. Member-owners and ag-retailers urged the legislature to keep the farming community and ag businesses top of mind as they worked to address these issues.
Dave Huper, Board President of Northern Country Cooperative which operates in Iowa and Minnesota attended both states co-op days. He saw the impact of these grassroots advocacy efforts firsthand.
“For our rural communities to thrive, they need a strong workforce, access to childcare, available housing, and reliable healthcare and broadband, which is why it’s important that the collective voice of our cooperatives are represented in our local government processes,” says Dave.
Land O’Lakes Board Chair Rick Brand with staff of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
In March in Minnesota, Land O’Lakes partnered with the Cooperative Network to host a Co-op Day at the Capitol which offered farmers access to Minnesota’s Commissioner of Agriculture Thom Petersen, Minnesota’s Department of Transportation Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger and legislative leaders from the Minnesota House and Senate.
Member-owners were advocating for the legislature to authorize further investment to support the dairy industry, which led to $4 million to support milk producers through the Dairy Assistance Investment and Relief Initiative and makes dairy risk management programs more affordable for producers.
Following this, in April in Wisconsin, Land O’Lakes again partnered with the Cooperative Network to showcase their commitment to grassroots advocacy. Member-owners attended the day-long event, featuring legislative leaders and representatives from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Department of Workforce Development. This gave member-owners a chance to share how labor shortages and transportation costs are impacting their ability to produce the food that fuels the world.
These advocacy efforts led to a legislative win, as a much-needed extension was granted for seasonal farm employee commercial driver's licenses from 180 to 210 days per year, allowing seasonal employees to operate machinery and haul fertilizer and other materials for a longer period of the year.
In May, Land O’Lakes joined the Agricultural Council of California for a Legislative Conference to advocate on behalf of rural communities and our cooperative system. This event took place just months after historic heavy rainfall in the Central Valley of California devastated the area, leaving many Land O’Lakes member-owners impacted by flooding. In April, member-owners Jack De Jong and Joe Mendes of Cowlifornia Dairy Farms in Hanford, CA hosted U.S. Representative David Valadao to discuss the extensive flood damage and the need for comprehensive water storage solutions and investment.
During the state legislative conference in May, similar concerns were shared with legislators from across the region, specifically the government response to the unprecedented flooding, as well as water storage and usage concerns. At the same time at the California legislature, conversations were swirling around regulation of water rights which would negatively impact farmers' access to water.
Land O’Lakes member-owners Jared Fernandes and Preston Fernandes with California State Senator Melissa Hurtado (SD-16). Sen. Hurtado represents California’s Central Valley which is home to many Land O’Lakes member-owners.
Land O’Lakes member-owner and board member Jared Fernandes who runs a 3rd generation dairy farm with his brothers in California’s Central Valley met with key elected officials including local California State Senator Melissa Hurtado who represents the Tulare area and Karla Nemeth, Director of the California Dept. Of Water Resources.
“Water is a vital resource for our farming operations. We need it for our dairy cattle and to produce crops on our land, such as alfalfa and wheat. Water is always the focal point of our struggle, whether it was the years we faced extreme drought, to regulation over water rights, or now as we contend with flooding and water storage issues. I appreciate the opportunity to share our concerns with elected officials and for their continued partnership with the farming community,” says Jared.
Land O’Lakes is committed to harnessing the power of our cooperative to elevate the voices of our farming communities and ensuring the challenges facing the agriculture industry are addressed by policymakers.