Members of the Dairy Business Association (DBA) gathered in Madison, Wisconsin, Nov. 30- Dec. 1, for their 11th Annual Business Conference for educational and networking opportunities. They also honored two farm families, elected directors and heard from their newly elected governor.

The conference began with a welcome from DBA President Jerry Meissner. He was followed by Randy Romanski, who assumed the role of secretary of theDepartment of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protectionafter the untimely death of former secretary Rod Nilsestuen this past summer.

During the first session, Liz Doornink, World Dairy Expo's 2010 Dairy Woman of the Year, moderated a panel of immigration attorneys. Leon R. Sequeira, Seyfarth Shaw LLP; Jose A. Olivieri, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP; and Erich Straub, Immigration Attorney LLC reviewed proposed immigration legislation, reminded how dairy producers can stay in compliance and discussed how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforces the current laws on immigration. The lawyers then took questions from the audience.

Annette Ostrom with Pfizer Animal Health told of a project developed by Pfizer and DBA. Together, they created dairy curriculum, including lesson plans and videos for teachers across the state to access on the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) website.


Next, a panel shared their experiences with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and recent on-farm inspections. Dairy producers Lee Jensen, Five Star Dairy, LLC, Elk Mound, Wisconsin, and Roxann Solum, Minglewood, Inc., Deer Park, Wisconsin, were both caught off-gaurd when representatives from OSHA and the Department of Labor drove on to their farms this year demanding information and a tour of the facility. Their attorney, Chuck Palmer, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP addressed what producers need to be aware of should this happen to them, while Jeff Carter, Wisconsin AgriService Association, shared how the grain industry has been dealing with OSHA inspections for years.

An evening dinner featured Stephen Moore, senior economics writer and editorial board member for the Wall Street Journal. It was followed by time to network with fellow dairy producers.

On day two, Attorney David Crass, managing partner, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, retold the saga that Larson Acres, Inc., a family dairy farm in Evansville, Wisconsin, has gone through in their four-year battle with the Town of Magnolia to have an expansion approved by means of the state's livestock facility siting law without conditions that do not fit within the rule. The issue currently awaits the review of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Ben Yale, senior partner of Yale Law Office, discussed whether or not Congress will act on agriculture policy in the next year. He said the dairy industry will want to be careful of what it asks for in the 2012 Farm Bill, as a band aid fix may create long-term problems. While most people are focused on the problems in the dairy industry, Yale pointed out that "We're one bad (corn) crop away from food shortage in the U.S. That makes every other dairy policy pale in comparison." The problem with corn is the government mandate for ethanol, which creates enormous demand for corn with no sensitivity to price. He also touched on cap and trade, immigration, the environment, treaties and the young Congress that will take office soon.

Governor-elect Scott Walker stopped by to say his focus will be on sustaining and creating jobs in Wisconsin, particularly in the core industries that built the state - manufacturing, agriculture and tourism. He'd like to reduce the tax and litigation burdens that stand in the way of growth. He also wants the state to invest in local areas, make healthcare more flexible and create cost-effective investments in the state's infrastructure – power, water, transportation and communication.

Two Wisconsin farm families were honored by DBA at the conference. The Crave Brothers Farm, LLC was recognized as the DBA Advocate of the Year and Larson Acres, Inc. was recognized with the DBA Leadership Award.

Members of DBA elected members to their Board of Directors. Two members were re-elected and one is new to the board. Mike North, a corporate member with First Capitol Ag, was re-elected to the board for a second term. John Pagel, owner of Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy, was also re-elected to the board for a third term. Newly elected to the board was dairy producer Mike Gerrits. Mike owns Country Aire Farms along with his brother Tom. PD

Karen Lee