The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation's top federal legislative priority remains passage of a farm bill this year.
Members of a congressional conference committee began ironing out the differences between the House and Senate's versions of the farm bill. WFBF recently sent a letter to Wisconsin's congressional delegation that outlines its priorities in the multi-year spending package on federal food and farm programs.
"Another extension would only delay reforms that benefit both farmers and taxpayers. Throughout this process our organization has welcomed reforms such as eliminating direct payments and increasing the ability for farmers to manage their own financial risks with crop insurance," read the letter to Wisconsin's two senators and eight members of the House.
"We will have achieved true reform when farmers can base planting decisions and produce commodities for the marketplace instead of a government program," said WFBF President Jim Holte, a grain and beef farmer from Dunn County.
"A specific area of interest for WFBF has been long-sought reform to our federal dairy policies. Agriculture generates more than $59 billion annually to Wisconsin's economy and nearly half of that total comes from the dairy industry alone," according to the letter.
Dairy remains one of the points where conferees will need to agree on a selected path. WFBF supports the House's Goodlatte/Scott amendment to the Dairy Security Act, but with some reservations.
"From the onset, our litmus test has been that any reforms should not put Wisconsin's dairy farmers and processors at an economic disadvantage from their peers in other parts of the country. Wisconsin's dairy industry is in a growth mode with a well-publicized goal of producing 30 billions pounds of milk annually by 2020. The federal component of this equation should be to offer tools that allow farmers to manage their own risk, without hindering growth of Wisconsin's dairy industry. The supply management provisions in the Senate's Dairy Security Act would have a dampening effect on Wisconsin's expansion efforts," read the letter.
WFBF said it is critical that policies within the next farm bill be workable and flexible to operate for the foreseeable future.
"The dairy program should only exist to provide a safety net in difficult financial situations. WFBF supports increasing the proposed premium levels and lowering the maximum amount of margin insurance coverage available. In addition, the USDA needs the authority to annually adjust premiums or margin insurance levels to control program costs to insure that the safety net does not guarantee the farmer a profit," Holte said.
The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and its 61 county Farm Bureaus represent farms of every commodity, size and commodity.