Capitol Update
by Senator Howard Marklein
June 19, 2020


Connecting With Agriculture to Champion Rural Wisconsin

I am one of only a few legislators who has spent a part of my life working on my family’s farm. There are just a couple of us in the legislature and we have taken a strong bi-partisan stand, together, to make sure that the voice of agriculture and rural Wisconsin is heard and represented in our state government.
Part of this role for me is to connect with farmers, agri-businesses and others in the agricultural supply chain on a regular basis for first-hand, real-world understanding of how things are going. In recent conversations, I have been told that some of the media narrative around farming and agriculture is misleading. Pam Jahnke, the Fabulous Farm Babe and one of the most prolific voices for agriculture in Wisconsin, recently wrote about the milk-buying, milk-price trend and said, “The return of milk may be one that’s built to last. That makes it time to pause the ‘milk is struggling’ stories. And it means even less support for the ‘death of dairy’ myth.”
In fact, milk prices have rebounded from the trough of a few months ago.  June milk is over $20/cwt. One cheesemaker I recently talked to said that we have gone from dumping milk to not having enough milk. Fortunately, farmers are flexible.
Unlike last year, spring planting went very well.  The corn and beans on my farm were planted one month earlier than in 2019. Timely rain and warm weather has given row crops a good start. First crop hay yields were down from a normal year, however.  I have heard that yields are down 50-70% from normal. This was likely due to the frost we had in May, which damaged alfalfa.
Beyond the impacts of weather and nature, Federal COVID-19 payments to farmers have been very helpful in recovery. Wisconsin’s grant program, which is open until June 29, will also help.  Farmer attitude and outlook appears to be improving greatly compared to two months ago. It was devastating when milk was being dumped, animals were being euthanized, etc. However, as the economy has opened, so have the markets for farm production. This is all good news!
I continue to ask farmers and others related to agriculture for ideas for ways to support agriculture. The best agriculture-related legislation I have worked on came directly from farmers. Our successful launch of the Dairy Innovation Hub, access to capital for agricultural business bill, the farm credit bill, ag truck driver bill and Truth in Food Labeling legislation were all generated from farmer-led recommendations. My work on rural broadband, rural Emergency Medical Services (EMS), rural education reforms and local, rural road funding are also influenced by our agricultural communities.
Protecting and promoting rural Wisconsin continues to be one of my top goals. I am committed to connecting with agriculture on a regular basis so that I may be an informed champion of real-world, high-impact ideas.  Keep in touch!
As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance.  Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703.