by Sen. Tammy Baldwin
As the Senate works on the 2018 Farm Bill, I want to make sure Washington is working for Wisconsin farmers.
I know that Wisconsin farmers are the backbone of our rural communities and a critical part of our Made in Wisconsin economy. With the Senate working to move the 2018 Farm Bill forward, I’ve been working for strong investments to support our hardworking farmers, and ensure they have the tools to be successful and drive our state economy forward.
From La Crosse to Altoona to Sheboygan County, I’ve met with farmers and heard about the challenges they face and the support they need. I brought those concerns with me to the Senate and I’m making sure Washington is working for Wisconsin farmers.
Improving Tools for Wisconsin’s Family Dairy Farmers
Wisconsin’s dairy farmers are facing an extremely challenging year with low dairy prices, an oversupply of milk in the region, unfair trade barriers from Canada and broader trade uncertainty. That’s why I’m working to make sure that dairy farmers have a sufficient safety net, with meaningful risk management tools in these tough times.
The Dairy Margin Protection Program has fallen short of protecting our farmers, so the 2018 Senate Farm Bill includes significant updates to better support dairy farmers, building off improvements we made earlier this year. With these additional updates, the program will offer more options for farmers to secure higher margin coverage levels and ensure that meaningful coverage levels are more affordable, especially for our small and medium sized family farmers. And dairy farmers will have an option to sign up or re-enroll every year, rather than every few years.
A working risk management tool is critical to ensure that market dips do not threaten the future of these farms – the backbone of our rural economy.
Supporting More Resources for Farmers in Crisis
Washington has been slow to recognize the challenges that farmers are facing, and the daily stressors that they experience during difficult years. The FARMERS FIRST Act provides funding for local mental health resources and expands access to stress reduction strategies and suicide prevention programs for agriculture workers, who according to the CDC have a higher rate of suicide than any other occupation.
My bipartisan legislation will provide funding to establish helplines, provide suicide prevention training for farm advocates, create support groups and reestablish the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN). When there is a crisis on the farm, farmers should know they are not alone and there are resources available to help them find a path through tough times.
Standing up for Organics, Cracking Down on Fraudulent Imports
Wisconsin is home to 1,200 organic farms, the second-largest number in the country. They are a strong driver of our economy, and our organic farmers work extremely hard to make sure their products meet the strict U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic standard.
In the past year, reports by the Washington Post, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the USDA Office of the Inspector General have revealed concerns about the integrity of some products imported from foreign countries into the United States and sold as organic. These fraudulent organic products damage the reputation of organic standards and undercut sales of domestically produced organic products, posing a threat to U.S. farmers and consumers alike.
Our Wisconsin organic farmers need a level playing field to compete so I am leading new legislation, the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act, that takes on fraudulent foreign imports and makes sure everyone is playing by the same rules. We must ensure American consumers are getting the high quality, organic food they expect.
Promoting Exports through Market Development
In addition to fighting against trade fraud and making sure our farmers have a fair playing field, I also support tools that make it possible for our farmers and food businesses to develop markets overseas and to export more of their crops, cheese, and other products. The Senate Farm Bill includes investments in the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program to assist farmers in establishing and expanding trade relationships.
Improving Rural Infrastructure, Water Quality
Safe drinking water is a priority for every community and is essential to the health and economic vitality of Wisconsin’s rural communities. Too often, small and rural communities across the country get left behind and lack the resources to make needed upgrades or repairs to their water and wastewater systems. That’s why I’m working for strong investments to support our rural areas and make sure they have access to clean drinking water and safe and reliable water infrastructure.
My Rural Water Infrastructure Improvements Act would reauthorize and expand the USDA grant and loan program that provides funding to states, local governments and tribes for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage, solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in rural areas.