Kevin Collins, a dairy producer from Greenleaf, Wisconsin, asks a question during Dairy Day at the Capitol Jan. 21 in Madison, Wisconsin. 
Kevin Collins, a dairy producer from Greenleaf, Wisconsin, asks a question during Dairy Day at the Capitol Jan. 21 in Madison, Wisconsin. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART

    MADISON, Wis. – Dairy producers made their voices heard Jan. 21 at the second annual Dairy Day at the Capitol hosted by Dairy Business Association in Madison.

    Approximately 40 people, including dairy farmers and industry members, received firsthand updates from legislative leaders and administration officials on matters critical to agriculture and dairy that are pending before the assembly and the senate.   
    “It’s good to be down in Madison and see our lawmakers and have them see us,” said Amy Penterman, DBA vice president. “They need to hear from actual voters and learn more about what we do as dairy farmers. By putting a face to our name, we’re no longer just a number.”
    Penterman and her husband, Sander, milk 850 cows and farm 1,400 acres on their farm, Dutch Dairy, in Thorp.
    Following a brief welcome from DBA president, Tom Crave, those in attendance heard from Preston Cole, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, who discussed the need for achieving clean water for everyone. Reps. Todd Novak and Katrina Shankland provided an update on water quality initiatives. Jason Stein, research director with Wisconsin Policy Forum, shared state budget numbers, and DBA government affairs staff briefed the audience on bills under consideration that are legislative priorities for DBA in 2020.
    Legislative office visits took place in the afternoon, giving attendees the opportunity for face-to-face meetings with lawmakers and their staff to help educate on issues such as dairy product labeling, crop insurance, nutrient-trading, livestock facility siting and more.
    “It does good to educate and give our input,” said Kevin Collins, a dairy producer from Greenleaf. “Many lawmakers are not familiar with agriculture. This is our chance to explain our challenges and what we’re trying to do on the farm.”
    Collins milks 1,300 cows and farms 3,000 acres, and was able to meet with several lawmakers from his area, including Joel Kitchens, Ron Tusler and Gary Tauchen, along with aids from the offices of Shae Sortwell, André Jacque and David Considine. Following his meetings, Collins said it was clear both sides are trying to work together on agricultural issues.  
    “They are really supportive of getting water bills passed,” Collins said. “I also saw a lot of support for the nutrient-trading and truth-in-labeling bills. Everyone was very receptive to us.”
    Dairy Day at the Capitol is an occasion in which dairy men and women can bring a piece of their farm to share with those crafting and passing laws affecting dairy farmers.
    “It was a really good day,” Penterman said. “The lawmakers were very engaged and very open. They wanted to hear what our issues were. They not only listened but also took notes. It was very encouraging.”
    Rep. Jesse James and Sen. Kathy Bernier were among Penterman’s visits. Penterman said some representatives they wanted to see were voting but came off the floor when they had a moment to talk with dairy farmers.
    “It’s such an inspiring day to be around other farmers and industry professionals,” Penterman said. “I know it’s hard for farmers to get away, but if you can squeeze out a little time to come have your voices heard at the Capitol, it makes all the difference in the world.”