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A ‘Hill’ of beans

Categories: WSAPublished On: March 6, 20234.5 min read

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WSA advocates return to nation’s capital

Washington, D.C., may have been holding business as usual, but the Wisconsin Soybean Association enjoyed a busier-than-anticipated Hill Visit on March 1.

“People who hadn’t took visits with us before, met with us,” said Tanner Johnson, who, along with Don Lutz, represents WSA on the American Soybean Association. “It was a very productive day, and we were excited to take visits with offices that historically did not meet with us.”

Johnson was accompanied by WSA President Sara Stelter, Vice President Doug Rebout, Treasurer Matt Rehberg, Director Evan Dalldorf and Wisconsin farmer Tony Mellenthin. Lutz was unable to attend, but was able to visit for nearly an hour the previous week with Rep. Mike Gallagher. The visit to the nation’s capital was Rehberg and Dalldorf’s first as WSA advocates.

“They were a little nervous about participating, but they really stepped up and did a great job,” Stelter said. “Everyone truly contributed.”

The Hill Visit was Stelter’s first since she was elected WSA president.

“I knew I needed to take more of a leading role,” she said. “It was such a positive experience overall, and I came away feeling more positive than I have in my previous visits.”

The directors divided into two groups and met with members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation to underscore ASA’s 2023 policy priorities, which include:

  •  Advancing Soy in 2023 Farm Bill Development
  •  Supporting an on-time, sufficiently funded, meaningful and comprehensive Farm Bill that addresses ASA priorities, including:
    • Protecting crop insurance
    • Improving the farm safety net for soybeans
    • Growing investments in the promotion of U.S. commodities globally
    • Enhancing access and continuing the voluntary, incentive-based, flexible approach to conservation programs
    • Promoting new market opportunities through research, rural development, and nutrition
  • Improving EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard for soy-based biofuels
    • Biofuels: Supporting higher renewable volume obligation targets for biomass-based diesel in the EPA proposed Renewable Fuel Standard rule for 2023-2025
    • Feedstock Availability: Ensuring soy remains an eligible feedstock in renewable fuel opportunities
  • Impacts of the WOTUS Rule
    •  Consider efforts to improve the Biden administration’s WOTUS rule so it works for farmers

During a meeting with Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s staff, farmer-leaders explained how the WOTUS ruling will adversely impact farmers and rural infrastructure. While visiting with Rep. Gwen Moore, Johnson said the congresswoman expressed her concerns about the Farm Bill and any potential cuts to SNAP.

“She assured us that crop insurance was a priority for her, so that was very reassuring,” Johnson said.

WSA directors promoted biodiesel during a conversion with Rep. Mark Pocan, who sits on the Biofuels Caucus. Later this year, WSA hopes to help arrange a crush facility tour in neighboring states with Rep. Pocan and Midwest congressional leaders.

“We really have some opportunities there to build some relationships and hopefully bring some crush plants into Wisconsin,” Johnson said.

For the first time in more than 20 years, Wisconsin has representation on the House Ag Committee. Rep. Derrick Van Orden sits on the committee, along with the Transportation Committee and is prioritizing rural infrastructure.

“Rep. Van Orden is very concerned about the health of the lock and dams on the Mississippi,” Johnson said. “He knows we will be a key player, and we have a great relationship with him. We have a federal champion for agriculture on the Ag Committee. He’s very excited to work with farmers.”

Following the Hill Visits, the congressman also led the WSA team on a private tour of the Capitol.

“Oh my gosh, that was incredible,” Stelter said. “Having Rep. Van Orden, with his historical knowledge, lead the tour was amazing. The amount of information we received about the Congress and the building and the history was so much more than we could’ve gotten anywhere else.”

While engaging with Sen. Ron Johnson’s legislative aides, ASA directors relayed their worries about involuntary conservation programs that farmers could be forced to participate in.

The Hill Visits had one drawback, Johnson reported. He got a little too much exposure to the Washington, D.C., sun.

“I think I was the only one who got sunburnt waiting in line in security,” he told his fellow directors to a chorus of laughter. “You guys laugh, but my face hurts.”

Prior to Hill Visits, ASA held the first portion of its board meeting. The board received a lay of the legislative land in D.C. from ASA’s policy team; updates on the ongoing chlorpyrifos lawsuit; news from the soybean checkoff via the United Soybean Board; and heard from House and Senate Ag Committee leaders, who outlined their priorities for the Farm Bill, which expires later this year.

The committees have a lot of work to do, and time is tight, House Ag Committee Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson told ASA directors.

“To get all this done, we will need help from the experts,” Rep. Thompson said. “You know firsthand where there may be room for improvements, and we need that feedback. Finding the resources to make these improvements may be challenging, but it’s a challenge my team and I are willing to put our shoulders into.”

Next up for WSA is its participating in finalizing federal policy resolutions March 12 during Commodity Classic.

“It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks,” Stelter said, “but I think we’re all feeling optimistic and on the same page.”