FarmFirst members (from left) – Joe Bragger, Independence, Wis.; Wayne Gajewski, Athens, Wis.; Brian Lueck, Bloomer, Wis.; Rich and Judy Meyer, Unity, Wis.; Brian Wozniak, Stanley, Wis.; Jean Reisinger, Spring Green, Wis.; David Bangart, Greenwood, Wis.; and Stephanie Hughes, Pittsville, Wis. – attend a meeting May 16 to hear Vice President Mike Pence discuss how trade deals and tariffs are affecting Wisconsin agriculture and industry in Eau Claire, Wis.
PHOTO SUBMITTED
FarmFirst members (from left) – Joe Bragger, Independence, Wis.; Wayne Gajewski, Athens, Wis.; Brian Lueck, Bloomer, Wis.; Rich and Judy Meyer, Unity, Wis.; Brian Wozniak, Stanley, Wis.; Jean Reisinger, Spring Green, Wis.; David Bangart, Greenwood, Wis.; and Stephanie Hughes, Pittsville, Wis. – attend a meeting May 16 to hear Vice President Mike Pence discuss how trade deals and tariffs are affecting Wisconsin agriculture and industry in Eau Claire, Wis. PHOTO SUBMITTED

    EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Wisconsin dairy farmers had the opportunity to share their points of view regarding trade issues during a roundtable discussion with Vice President Mike Pence during a visit May 16 at J&D Manufacturing in Eau Claire, Wis.
    The roundtable discussion centered on the importance of trade deals such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the effect trade has on agriculture and other industries.


    Wayne Gajewski, a dairy farmer from Athens, Wis., and FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative board member, was invited to join the roundtable with Vice President Pence and five individuals representing other areas of Wisconsin agriculture. Following the meeting, Pence addressed the crowd.
    “It was a great honor and privilege to be selected to take part in this discussion, representing FarmFirst members and dairy farmers from throughout Wisconsin,” Gajewski said. “I shared with the vice president how dairy farmers have been feeling the last four years and how each year things get a little worse.”
    Gajewski said earlier that week he had received a call from Julie Sweney, FarmFirst director of communication and marketing, asking him if he was interested in attending the event. Later in the week, he was informed he had been selected to take part in the roundtable discussion. Gajewski said having the support of other FarmFirst directors and members in attendance helped him focus on the message he delivered.
    “I was a bit nervous knowing I had so much to share, but the vice president was very courteous and made the discussion very relaxed,” Gajewski said. “It was very comfortable talking with him. I felt that he was on the same page, wanting to get these trade deals passed.”
    When Pence arrived, each participant in the roundtable was able to introduce themselves and share how trade and tariff issues affect them in their businesses. Gajewski said Pence listened attentively and took notes during the discussion.


    Pence told the roundtable participants not to give up hope and assured them negotiations are continuing to progress in a positive manor despite what they might be hearing on the news which was good news to Gajewski.
     “Trade agreements have proven to be very important for U.S. dairy, which is why it is imperative to pass the USMCA,” Gajewski said. “Every day that passes without ratifying USMCA is another day that the U.S. dairy industry risks losing valuable market-share.”
    Jean Reisinger, dairy farmer in Spring Green, Wis., and FarmFirst board member, was one of the dairy farmers who made the trip to hear what Pence had to say.
    “As a farmer, I felt good about what I heard,” Reisinger said. “The vice president acknowledged that the family farm is the hub of America. That’s important to me. We are fourth generation family farmers, and our farm has been in the family for 118 years.”
     Energized by what Pence had to say about the trade bill, Reisinger began rallying people to contact legislators, urging them to work together to ensure passage of USMCA while beginning to draft letters of her own.
    For members of FarmFirst and all dairy farmers, working together to provide leadership in the industry is important.
     “It is important to all members of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative that our concerns are heard,” Gajewski said. “We look forward to the passage of the USMCA and for the tariffs to be lifted and hopefully soon on both accounts.”
    While he continues to follow the news about movements with the USMCA and other trade deals, Gajewski has also been able to reflect on his experience of meeting Vice President Pence.
    “It’s something that I would have never thought I would be able to do and something that will stay with me forever,” Gajewski said. “With FarmFirst, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and connect with quite a few leaders in Washington, (D.C.), but this experience is one I’ll remember forever.”