We are seemingly at the mercy of new legislation to make America “green,” free ourselves of workers that want to work, and measures that tax wholesale producers when they purchase retail goods. And, we will continue that way unless we do something about it.

While agriculture is less than 2 percent of the population these days, we feed 100 percent of the people. Unless we tell our story, we are likely to be undone by onerous legislation and uneducated public opinion. So, get to know your lawmakers at all levels of government.

Here’s why they should listen to you:

  • You are a primary producer. In terms of economic engines, you produce a product upon which others depend. And, you generate jobs. Dairy dollars have a seven-fold minimum multiplier effect. Simply put, for every $100,000 in your milk check, it bounces around in your local community seven times, or $700,000 worth. That’s a big economic impact!
  • You are “green” and always have been. Your dairy’s manure provides nutrients for growing crops. Your operation’s waste water travels through plants or filters through the layers of dirt and solids designed by Mother Nature to clean water. (And, of course, you apply at agronomic rates, with an eye on annual rainfall and saturation of fields.)
  • You are a recycler. Many of the feed ingredients we use are left over from other manufacturing processes, but a cow with her four stomach compartments can easily digest them.
  • You are high-tech! Genetic selection via artificial insemination produces cattle with greater longevity, higher output and better overall health. Computer systems help manage cows better, such as making sure vaccinations are given on time to prevent health issues.
  • You create jobs. On your farm, but also up and down the supply chain.
  • You are a professional. You work with extension specialists, nutritionists, veterinarians and consultants to become well-informed on cow, environment and employee management. And you continue your education as you attend courses, co-op meetings and livestock organization educational programs.

How to do it:

  • Voice your interest in dairy visits with dairy lobbyists and legislative staff to your co-op board. Not all regions are positioned to get the ear of their politicians, but that can be changed if we are willing to volunteer a great tour site and tell our impressive story of recycling, environmental stewardship and our keen interest in animal welfare, food safety and a viable workforce.
  • Develop relationships with people who can influence policy. These include township officials, county commissioners, legislators and their aides, and your co-op’s lobbyists for the dairy industry. The lobbyists can assist in further developing relationships because they are often trusted faces in the political world.
  • Become a tour site. Make sure that you are in compliance with all state local or federal laws, and then develop on-farm presentations so people can see the quality of care, level of detail and commitment you have for your dairy cows, facility and the environment.
  • Get involved with your local marketing groups and take your show on the road if you don’t want visitors on your facility (and that’s OK if you don’t). Many states have created an “ambassador” program to get into schools to show a short video to students (and very importantly, teachers). Everyone appreciates getting to know their own personal farmer.

Most people, including policy-makers, are generations removed from production agriculture and our advancements in technology, animal care and food quality. We are the ONLY opportunity they have to get the story from the professionals! Such a tiny population has to have all of our voices talking about our dedication to animal welfare, food safety, our workforce and our economies.

Mary Kraft dairies with her husband, Chris, near Fort Morgan, Colo.