WI farmers hit the Hill in hopes of passing new Farm Bill

Categories: WSAPublished On: March 20, 20243 min read

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Leaders representing the Wisconsin Soybean Association (WSA) and the American Soybean Association (ASA) met in Washington, D.C., March 12-14 to advocate for federal farm-friendly policies. The Farm Bill, which received a one-year extension November 2023, was top of mind for farmer-leaders. 

“We have a determination to get the Farm Bill done,” said Tanner Johnson, who, along with Don Lutz, represents WSA on ASA. “The uncertainty hurts not only our farmers, but our entire ag economy, which rural economies depend on.”  

Johnson said he was encouraged to see bipartisan support for the massive piece of legislation, which is expected to top $1 trillion.  

“There’s optimism of seeing it finished this year,” he said, “and it’s good to see both parties willing to work with each other. 

ASA’s Farm Bill priorities, which have been developed from over a year of listening sessions and legislative meetings, include: 

  • Improving the Title I farm safety net for soybeans to make it more responsive in times of economic disruption
  • Protecting crop insurance to assist with volatile weather and crop loss
  • Protecting the farmer-funded, farmer-led soy checkoff that provides a high return on investment

During a visit to Capitol Hill, Wisconsin farmers and Executive Director Ryan Smith met with members and staffers representing the state’s congressional delegation, including Reps. Derrick Van Orden, Brian Steil and Tom Tiffany, who visited with growers for a half-hour.  

“To get a chance to walk on Capitol Hill to engage with our federal legislators is a great opportunity to share our message,” WSA President Sara Stelter said at a legislative reception following the Hill Visits. “It’s all about building relationships, and I think our entire team appreciates that it’s a privilege to represent Wisconsin during these meetings.” 

Throughout the Hill Visit, directors also underscored the importance of China’s market to soybean producers. About 60 percent of all U.S. exports are destined for the Chinese market. In total, yearly trade relations between U.S. soybeans and China totals about $18 billion. Any disruptions with the Chinese market or a repeat of the 2018-2019 trade war could cause severe harm to Wisconsin farmers. ASA also is opposed to any efforts to revoke Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status from China. 

“In every meeting, we brought up defending China as our trade partner while also understanding that we need to hold them accountable in terms of national security,” Johnson said. “Our message was, ‘Don’t take away our biggest customer and let their people eat, no matter what the politics of their country are.’” 

Soy-based biofuels continue to increase in both production and consumption. Wisconsin farmers also urged legislators to improve federal programs and tax credits that support the biofuels industry and expand market opportunities for soy-based biofuels that benefit soybean farmers and jobs across rural America. 

“We had productive talks about sustainable aviation fuel,” Johnson said. “That will be an important market for us going forward.”  

WSA Treasurer Matt Rehberg also attended. Smith, who made his first Hill Visit since becoming executive director, said the meetings were productive and helped build camaraderie. 

“Our advocates are disciplined in their messaging, and legislators and their staff responded positively,” Smith said. “I really enjoyed the day on the Hill with this group and getting to know them all a little better.”  

Nearly two years since the death of longtime Executive Director Bob Karls, WSA is on strong footing with Smith as staff lead.  

“He has good connections and helped open doors a little further,” Johnson said. “You can tell Ryan gives a darn.”  

Wisconsin will return to the nation’s capital July 16-18 for ASA’s summer board meeting.