As conversations continue around the upcoming Farm Bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the Land O’Lakes Board of Directors and Policies and Resolutions Committee members participated in a fly-in on the sidelines of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) congressional fly-ins.
Every five years, the Farm Bill requires reauthorization. This legislation include policy and programs that are vital important to farmers and rural communities, including risk management tools, the farm safety net, trade promotion, conservation, and rural development programs.
As conversations around this important legislation emerge, Land O’Lakes member-owners have been at the forefront sharing their perspectives and experiences across the agriculture industry with policymakers locally and nationally.
Land O’Lakes Board Members and Policies & Resolutions Committee members pose with members of the Land O’Lakes Government Relations team in front of the United States Capitol during the National Council of Farmers Cooperative fly-in
While these fly-ins were mostly focused on Farm Bill priorities, one message that members of Land O’Lakes always bring to their discussions with policymakers is the strength and value of our cooperative system. Farmer owned cooperatives like Land O’Lakes help farmers compete in an increasingly competitive market. Agricultural cooperatives are critical to America’s safe and affordable food, feed, fiber, and fuel supply.
Through the cooperative model, Land O’Lakes can offer a wide range of services that include direct business support (whether on-farm or at an ag retail operation), through industry advocacy, and individual development in key areas like market access or sustainability efforts.
Members John Hess, Laura Daubert, & Emily Meyers meeting with Congressman John Joyce (PA-13)
Land O’Lakes helps facilitate on-farm sustainability within its cooperative network. Since farmers are the original conservationists, they have a unique perspective to share with policymakers as they craft legislation that will impact farm operations.
Within the Farm Bill, in the Conservation title (Title II) there are programs to provide financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to voluntarily implement practices on their private land. Land O’Lakes is advocating for provisions in the 2023 Farm Bill that would support and streamline existing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs. Currently, Land O’Lakes is partnering with Senators Mike Braun (R-IN) and Michael Bennett (D-CO) in the Senate and Representatives Jim Baird (IN-04) and Abigail Spanberger (VA-07) in the House on the Increased TSP (Technical Service Provider) Access Act, which supports private sector delivery of technical assistance through our farmer cooperatives and ag retailers to help farmers scale adoption of practices that improve both our environment and farmers’ economic viability.
Steve Harnish attended these fly-ins and is a great example of a dairy producer who uses data to measure their conservation efforts. Steve farms with his family in Washinton Boro, Pennsylvania where they operate Central Manor Dairy LLC. Their conservation efforts include applying the no-till technique to their crops and using cover crops in the winter.
They have also maintained a riparian forest buffer for 18 years along a tributary of the Conestoga River in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. A riparian forest buffer is an area near a body of water that filters nutrients, pesticides and animal waste from agricultural land runoff. Efforts like these showcase how farmers are stewards of the land.
Member-owners from Minnesota, Emily Olson Pieper, David Berning, and Brad Vold meeting with Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach (MN-07)
Another issue at the forefront of discussions in Washington, D.C. was agricultural labor reform. Members shared with their federal representatives how much difficulty they face finding labor for their farms and operations. As of right now, the U.S. is approximately 2.5 million workers short of the necessary levels to meet production needs.
“One major issue facing the entire ag community, whether we are producers or growers, is access to labor. Without a significant increase in our ag labor workforce, we will continue to see it impacting our nation’s ability to grow and produce the food we need,” said member-owner David Berning.
While the Farm Bill likely won’t touch on labor reform, Land O’Lakes members used these fly-ins to encourage bipartisan engagement from lawmakers to develop comprehensive immigration solutions and pass farm workforce reform before it is too late.
Last Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act. This legislation would increase the supply of farm workers, help lower food prices at the store and ensure people in the United States and around the world have access to food at a time of high inflation and global food insecurity. However, this bill did not advance through the Senate, stalling progress on this critical issue.
Member-owner and Land O’Lakes board member Evan Hillan from Wisconsin who participated in these fly-ins said, “Agricultural labor reform is essential to national security, we are more secure when we produce our own food. It is important we share that with our policymakers, so they understand the gravity of the situation.”
Garreth Hubbard of the Land O’Lakes Government Relations team with member-owners Greg Hemsarth, Steve Harnish, and Timothy Kurtz meeting with Congressman Lloyd Smucker (PA-11)\
A recurring topic during these meetings with policymakers was the importance of the farm safety net programs in keeping our agricultural community strong. The Farm Bill’s safety net and crop insurance programs are critical to creating a predictable operating environment for farmers.
In the Farm Bill, Safety Net programs are in Title I and consist of a collection of programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provide protection and support to farmers who experience natural disasters, adverse growing conditions, and low market prices.
During these meetings, Josh Zonneveld, Land O’Lakes member-owner and board member said, “This year’s Farm Bill should focus on updates and improvements to the current farm safety net programs, specifically regarding reference prices. It is also important to make crop insurance more affordable for farmers.”
Additionally, many members advocated for increased attention to programs that support farmers impacted by inclement weather causing flooding, or resource challenges such as ongoing drought conditions.
These fly-ins provided an important opportunity for member-owners to bring their experiences and perspectives to the halls of Congress to ensure their voices are represented in the upcoming Farm Bill. The Land O’Lakes Government Relations team will continue to facilitate similar opportunities to advocate on the important issues facing the agriculture community.
For members interested in joining these efforts, please reach out to the Land O'Lakes, Inc. Government Relations team.