Looking back at 2019, it was a year most Wisconsin soybean farmers would like to forget. From the blizzard in February that destroyed countless farm buildings, through the wet spring and continuing through the wet fall with delayed harvest and wet grain in the field. These unfortunate conditions led to earlier mornings and later nights to get the same job done.
Similar to the growing season, there needed to be early mornings and late nights to achieve the policy work the Wisconsin Soybean Association has accomplished for our farmers. Much like our farmer members, we will learn from our experiences this past year. We are excited and optimistic about the work we will do for our farmers moving forward.
As soybean farmers, we are all well aware of how important international trade is for our operations, and in recent months we have experienced a myriad of trade agreements (China Phase 1, USMCA, Japan, South Korea). While we are thankful for those accomplishments, we also realize that the flow of trade will not return to the way we knew it overnight. With tariffs in place for all of 2019, we diligently worked to expand our markets and to diversify our customer base, and we found success in our efforts. Even with soybeans eligible for a tariff waiver, we must continue to defend and expand our other international markets so that no single customer has absolute power over our profitability.
In addition to diversifying our international demand, over this past year, we have worked to expand our domestic demand base as well. We have successfully advocated for a 5-year biodiesel tax credit; this is the longest biodiesel tax credit in history. It took many months and multiple visits with our legislatures in Washington DC, but the dedication of our farmer leaders has paid off, and we are proud of the relationships we have made in Washington DC during the process of solidifying this policy achievement. Unfortunately, the issue of small refinery exemptions remain. While we have had court rulings in favor of biofuels, the current EPA has chosen to ignore the law and continue with their practices that are taking money out of rural America and placing it in the pockets of the oil industry. We are currently working with the USDA and the EPA to not only eliminate the exemptions but to also reallocate the gallons lost since 2016.
From the “year of clean drinking water” proclaimed by Governor Evers last year to the water quality discussions that are being had on county and township levels, one thing has become clear. It is not whether new policies will be enacted, but rather what those policies will be. The Wisconsin Soybean Association has been active in these discussions and is advocating for policies that will have minimal impact on our farmers while maximizing water quality benefits. It is imperative that as farmers, we lead the discussion throughout our communities. Quite often, counties and townships enact regulations far faster than can be done at the state level. If there are local meetings where water quality will be addressed, please notify the Wisconsin Soybean Association so we can provide information and representation to take part in these discussions.
There is great potential for the Wisconsin soybean industry and at the WSA, we invite all Wisconsin farmers to get involved and join our growing organization. Together we can brighten the future of the soybean industry and spur change for the advancement of American agriculture as a whole.