WESTBY, Wis. – As a dairy farmer who grew up on his family’s farm, milks 50 cows and farms 230 acres, Darin Von Ruden has “farm cred.”

That’s why the Wisconsin Farmers Union nominated the Westby-area farmer to serve on Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0, said Julie Keown-Bomar, the organization’s executive director. The Wisconsin Farmers Union nominated both Von Ruden and Patty Edelburg to serve on the task force.

In addition to being farmers “in the trenches” they are well-versed in dairy policy, and provide leadership at state and national levels, Keown-Bomar said. Edelburg is the vice-president of the National Farmers Union. Von Ruden serves as president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union.

“They have a passion for independent family farms,” Keown-Bomar said. “And they want to preserve life in rural America that’s hurting now. Both approach their work with passion and compassion, which keeps them going and at the top of their games.”

Von Ruden said, “I wanted to join the task force because of my love for the dairy business. And I wanted to help do something about the crisis. We definitely need to do something different. I’m interested in supply management. There’s an opportunity to share some new ideas to make sure farmers receive reasonable pay.”

Among those ideas are proposals submitted as part of the Dairy Together movement, in which the Wisconsin Farmers Union has participated. Proposals for ways to improve dairy-farm income have been submitted by dairy organizations and farms from across the United States. Visit Dairyproposals2018.com to access those proposals and for more information.

Von Ruden is serving on three subcommittees of Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 — access to capital, rural community and vitality, and price volatility and profitability.

The “access to capital” subcommittee has submitted to the task force three recommendations, and those recommendations have been approved by the task force.

1. Recommend to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers that he request the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to create a pilot loan-guarantee program in the existing agribusiness-guarantee program, setting aside as much as $3 million of the guarantee authority for the pilot program — with the following modifications.

  • For the pilot program only, change the maximum guarantee to the lesser of 25 percent of the loan amount or $750,000.
  • For the pilot program only, change from a shared-loss guarantee to a fixed-amount guarantee for the life of the guarantee – last out.
  • Change maximum guarantee terms to — land and buildings, 10 years; inventory, equipment and machinery to five years; permanent working capital to two years,
  • Change the closing fee to 1.5 percent of the guarantee amount.

2. Recommend to the governor that he request the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to create permanent changes to the existing agribusiness-guarantee program.

  • Change the maximum-guarantee program to 90 percent of the loan amount, to as much as $750,000 – shared loss.
  • Change maximum-guarantee terms to — land and buildings, 10 years; inventory, equipment and machinery to five years; permanent working capital to two years.
  • Change the closing fee to 1.5 percent of the guarantee amount.

3. Recommend to the governor that he work with the legislature to appropriate an additional $10 million to support the guarantee-loan fund held by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, for the purpose of expanding the processor-pilot program while also supporting modernization and expansion of existing guarantee-loan programs.

That is specifically related to

  • modernizing and expanding the Credit Relief Outreach Program guarantee program to ensure it’s a meaningful and cost-effective tool to support producer credit needs
  • expand and modernize the Farm Asset Reinvestment Management guarantee, supporting access to credit for dairy farmers to modernize and implement technology in their operations to increase efficiency

More recommendations from Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 will be forthcoming, and are posted on the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and consumer Protection’s website. The full task-force committee meeting will be held at 10 a.m. March 15 at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay/Sheboygan Campus in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Additional details will be posted when available, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Visit datcp.wi.gov and click on “Dairy Task Force 2.0“ for more information.

Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin. Email lgrooms@madison.com to contact her.