Growing up on a dairy farm, I look back fondly on the long and hard days our family worked to make the magic happen. The farm brought our entire family together. We worked, and when it got tough, we remembered that each day helped feed our neighbors and families across the nation.
Established in 1939, June Dairy Month helps celebrate dairy and our dairy farmers. Throughout Wisconsin, neighbors and friends can see – and taste – the impact dairy producers have on our state by enjoying the nation’s best cheese curds, ice cream, and milk.
Dairy is more than a product. It is a part of our state’s heritage. Look at the license plates around you, and you will see that we are indeed “America’s Dairyland.” Drive around, and you will see the beautiful silhouettes of grain silos and red barns dotting western Wisconsin’s landscape.
However, Wisconsin’s landscape is changing. Family farms, once fixtures on our rolling plains, are disappearing. Low prices and trade uncertainty have accelerated this trend. As of May 2019, Wisconsin lost 302 dairy farms or about two and a half a day. At the current rate, the state is on track to lose even more farms relative to past years.
It would be a lie to say there is a silver bullet solution. However, we can take steps to not make the situation worse. In response to U.S.-imposed tariffs, cheese shipments to China have fallen by 65 percent while exports to Mexico are also down. Farmer bailouts, which were promised to make those harmed by the trade war whole, have not ended up in the hands of family farmers.
According to recent reporting, a Brazilian-based meatpacker – the largest in the world – is set to receive $62 million in taxpayer funds. Scott Yocom, a 48-year-old Manhattan architect, is one of over 1,100 people living in America’s largest cities to receive a “farmer” bailout check.
The farmers I know want fair prices for honest work. They want the ability to get products to market, access to health care, and to continue the traditions that have guided their families for generations.
If we are going to honor June Dairy Month, let’s bring out the cheese curds, but let’s also remember the key investments that can strengthen our foundation so farmers and rural communities can thrive. We need to invest in our infrastructure so our bridges aren’t being downgraded and so farmers can get their products to market efficiently. We must prioritize broadband expansion so producers and rural communities can stay connected and capitalize on new opportunities. We must expand Medicaid so farmers who are barely making it can access the health care and mental health resources they might need.
Here’s to our farmers. Together, we can lay the foundation for a better tomorrow.