The Dairy Business Association has been successful in providing an influential voice for the dairy community at all levels of government in Wisconsin. Through a collaborative effort with rule-making agencies, local governments, state elected officials and other organizations, DBA has produced favorable policy and regulatory outcomes that allow our dairy community to thrive.
Our organization is well-known in Madison for sensible solutions to the table that farmers and community partners can effectively implement. We are often asked by lawmakers for input about the practical impact of legislative proposals.
Here are examples of DBA’s work during the 2017-18 legislative session:
- High-capacity wells — After six years of work, a state bill was passed to protect the repair, replacement and transfer of existing high-capacity wells. Not all dairy farms use these wells, but we recognize that the future of our industry is tied to creating more predictability for farmers as they consider how to maintain, grow or transition their farms. This bill will help.
- Rule changes — DBA’s commitment to regulatory reform and streamlining continued. We worked to pass the Wisconsin REINS Act, which provides increased oversight of costly rule changes. Also, we worked on a new law that would let the documents that authorize administrative rule changes expire if they are not acted upon in a timely manner by a state agency. Oversight on administrative rules matters to farmers because most regulations farmers face will come in the form of a rule, not a statute.
- Livestock siting — We kept state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection from doing away with odor scoring as part of the livestock facility siting process. The changes the agency proposed would have made it much more difficult to build manure storage at a new or existing farm. We also fought against an amendment to the state budget that would have created special siting protections to gravel facilities, while undermining protections for farms and other facilities that sometime struggle to get permitted.
- Water quality — DBA did its part to help address water quality concerns in parts of our state. We lobbied for the expansion of a loan program for homeowners with contaminated wells and failing septic systems. We also helped to increase state funding for farmer-led watershed groups focused on voluntary conservation programs. DBA helps to directly support several of these groups across the state.
- Livestock consortium — Sometimes even good programs need a little bit of help. With that in mind, DBA worked to keep the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium properly funded. We were also part of a coalition that made commonsense improvements to the Ag Producer Security Program, which protects farmers in the event of a processor default.
- DNR rulemaking — The DBA won an important victory in a lawsuit against the state for ignoring laws that lay out the process for creating rules. The catalyst was the DNR’s about-face on farmers’ use of vegetative treatment areas and water collection from catch hutch areas. Farmers will save millions of dollars and have assurance that they won’t face further overreach.
- State dairy brands — There was also a “feel good” component to our work. We supported a bill that designated cheese as Wisconsin’s official state dairy product. Also, with the help of broad public support, we resoundingly defeated a proposal to remove “America’s Dairyland” for our state’s license plates.
Here are some of the association’s earlier policy successes:
- Livestock facility siting — This legislation created uniform state rules governing where a farmer can build or expand a livestock facility. The goals would to keep local governments from preventing a new farm just because local officials are opposed to modern agriculture.
- CAFO general permit — This permit was developed in collaboration with DNR to allow livestock farmers to expedite the lengthy permit process if they meet certain threshold criteria. DBA was critical in setting the progressive threshold for participation to expand the use this general permit.
- Green Tier Charter — DBA worked to develop a program that provides a structure for dairy farmers that want to go above and beyond existing environment regulations. In addition to the environmental benefits, participating farms also receive other benefits meant to improve their interactions with DNR.
- Raw milk — A healthy incident caused by raw milk could adversely affect the entire dairy community. DBA and its allies have stopped repeated attempts to legalize raw milk sales in Wisconsin. Mostly recently, raw milk bills have not even been able to get a committee hearing in the Legislature.
- Supply management — DBA worked with others to remove supply management, also known as the Market Stabilization Program, from the 2014 Farm Bill. This change has positioned the United States to increase its dairy exports and will allow our farms to grow without production limits.
- ATCP 65 — This administrative rule was created to combine existing rules dealing with dairy farms and dairy plants. The draft rule contained provisions that would have put farms that direct ship their milk at a competitive disadvantage. DBA was the primary voice responsible for defeating these changes.