Sadie and Dan Frericks stand with U.S. Representative and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson April 30 in Washington, D.C. Sadie was invited to Washington, D.C. by committee staff to talk about the dairy economy.
photo Provided By House Agriculture Committee
Sadie and Dan Frericks stand with U.S. Representative and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson April 30 in Washington, D.C. Sadie was invited to Washington, D.C. by committee staff to talk about the dairy economy. photo Provided By House Agriculture Committee

    WASHINGTON D.C. – The room fell silent as Sadie Frericks told her family’s story of dairy farming to congressmen and women. As she illustrated the lifestyle it provides, yet the mounting challenges the last few years have presented, Frericks’ story was all too familiar for those milking cows.
    Despite the multiple stories told of negligible profit margins and unprecedented farm losses, it is a narrative that needs repeating.


    “It’s OK that we all sound like a broken record. [Lawmakers] need to hear it multiple times before the reality will sink in,” Frericks said. “There were five of the thousands of dairy farmers in the country who told that story. … They only got a sliver of the pie.”
    Frericks joined a New York dairyman and a Pennsylvania dairyman, and two industry representatives from across the nation as she testified at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture hearing April 30 in Washington, D.C.
    The purpose of the hearing was to review the state of the dairy economy in an effort to educate newly elected lawmakers who are a part of the agriculture committee.
    “We now have a fabulous farm bill, but we can’t let dairy be put to the back burner,” Frericks said. “This hearing will help keep congressmen and women focused on dairy, so it’s at the top of their minds.”


    During the hearing, Frericks was given five minutes to testify.
    She used her platform to briefly explain how she and her husband, Glen, began dairying and established a 90-cow dairy farm in Stearns County near Melrose, Minn. Frericks’ testimony further emphasized the joys dairy farming provides for her three young children – Dan, Monika and Daphne – but also the trials of the last five years.
    For the first time in the Frerickses’ dairying career, they requested a line of credit to pay their vendors last year, Frericks stated in her testimony. Their savings have evaporated and short-term debt has accumulated.  
    “I bawled writing my testimony,” Frericks said. “We’re certainly been feeling the strain and emotional stress of what’s happening in our industry, but this was the first time I had actually put the feelings in writing.”
    Despite difficult conversations about the future of their farm, the Frerickses are persevering with the assistance of government-funded programs, such as Dairy Revenue Protection insurance and the upcoming Dairy Margin Coverage to secure profits.
    At the hearing, subcommittee members asked questions about the programs and what needs to be done to further encourage farmers’ participation.
    After the two-hour meeting, Frericks left feeling she made a lasting impression on the lawmakers.
    “We were all on the same page and presented a unified message,” said Frericks of the others who testified. “Those congressmen and women probably can’t put themselves in our shoes, but they were all listening intently, and I think our message was very well received.”
    Frericks is no stranger to advocacy, having lobbied at the state and national capitols on the importance of dairy policy. In 2017, she attended Minnesota Farm Fest and participated in the farm bill listening session on behalf of her cooperative.
    So, when House Agriculture Committee staff invited Frericks to testify, she readily accepted.
    “I’ve seen other farmers testify and always thought that’d be cool,” Frericks said. “I think whether you’re at the state or national level, it’s important our elected leaders hear real stories to better understand what our dairy business is like. Whether they’re on the ag committee or not, they’re writing laws that directly affect our businesses.”
    While Frericks’ testimony was not tied to legislation, she welcomed the opportunity to educate public officials. It was also a chance for Frericks to bring her son to Washington D.C. and demonstrate the importance of meeting and forming relationships with lawmakers.
    The weight a single conversation holds is invaluable, said Frericks. She encourages dairy farmers to create a list of ways the economic downturn is affecting their dairies and write a letter capturing their story to their senators and representatives.
    “It’s the same concept we use with consumers,” Frericks said. “The more stories they hear, the better.”
    While Frericks had the chance to share her family’s story, there is more to talk about. Frericks plans to continue talking with lawmakers about rural mental health and the emotional stress the dairy industry is facing.
    The testimony can be found on the House Agriculture Committee website: https://www.agriculture.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1394.