Young dairy farmers lobbying for immigration, trade policies that help them succeed

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A group of young Fond du Lac farmers are lobbying their lawmakers. They are members of the Farm First Dairy Cooperative and are concerned with issues like immigration, labeling and trade. They say lawmakers were receptive to their pleas.

Janet Clark says the innovation of newer generations of farmers makes their voices valuable for lawmakers.

“Once we get to Capitol Hill, they’re happy to see us,” said Michael Leahy, a Farm First Young Cooperator.

He lobbied on Capitol Hill with Travis and Janet Clark. They say despite being up and comers, they think their insight is respected.

“Being young, we’re also using new technologies when we’re farming and we’re, I would say, more advanced than my parents were when it comes to technology in farming,” said Janet Clark.

Janet is following in her parents’ footsteps and Travis married into it. He says lawmakers need to understand how their decisions on trade and immigration affect farmers’ lives. Clark says eliminating trade deals will affect their sales, and cracking down on immigration would deplete their workforce.

“What would happen if all of a sudden they took away all of our workers? What would happen? I mean, those cows need to be taken care of,” said Travis.

These young farmers say it can be difficult staying connected to their federal lawmakers. Agencies like the American Farm Bureau Federation help them to spread their message across all levels of government.

“Legislators need to know exactly how their farmers feel about things and the best way to do it is to have farmers tell their own story,” said Randy Dwyer, director of the Farm Bureau’s grassroots program.

He says when it comes to federal legislation like the Farm Bill, the young farmers can play a role, if they want.

“My suggestion for young farmers, young ranchers is to get involved in the process now. Start early. Don’t think you have to wait until later on when...there’s an issue or a crisis to get engaged,” said Dwyer.

The current Farm Bill expires next year, and lawmakers are already working on the next one.