By Mike Stranz, NFU Government Relations Rep.

Almost 72,000 people attended the 2012 World Dairy Expo (WDE) in Madison, Wisconsin, last week. National Farmers Union had a booth in the exhibition hall, strategically placed near the free samples of cheese and butter, and had a great deal of foot traffic pass by during the five days of the show.
There were plenty of questions from thousands of passers-by, but there were three that were the most common.

“I heard the farm bill expired – so what happens now?”
World Dairy Expo opened only two days after the 2008 Farm Bill expired and many farmers and others in the dairy industry were curious about the repercussions. Dairy farmers will be among the first to feel the effects of the inaction by the majority leadership of the House of Representatives to act on a five-year farm bill, and NFU distributed a flyer at WDE that outlined the effects on dairy on conservation programs. Many of those who stopped by the booth were curious if their members of congress had signed onto the farm bill discharge petition or had voted for the bill in the House agriculture committee. It was clear that there are lots of people in rural America who want and need a farm bill now.

“How much of that gets back to the farmer?”
The NFU booth featured a poster that reads “Your price is right, but what’s the farmer’s share?” Using the farmers’ share of the food dollar information that NFU releases monthly, we determined the actual retail price of a standard breakfast, lunch and dinner, and displayed that information on a poster. Passers-by would then try to guess the portion of that price that actually goes to a farmer’s wallet. For example – a breakfast consisting of a glass of milk, three eggs, two slices of toast, and three strips of bacon would cost $3.26, but only $0.75 of that makes it back to the farm. On average, farmers only receive 15.8 percent of what consumers spend on food at a grocery store.

“Are these seeds good for next year?”
NFU’s official tagline is “United to Grow Family Agriculture,” so passing out vegetable and herb seed packets to those who stopped by our booth made a lot of sense. After all, seeds allow everyone to grow something and to directly participate in agriculture. There were plenty of discussions about horticulture at the booth, too, (for best results, try planting radishes and carrots in the same row, and start tomatoes indoors, sometime in March and in a south-facing window, unless you’re from Florida) but there was also talk about the importance of making sure everyone knows where their food comes from. And yes – the seed packets were prepared for next year’s planting season.

All told, World Dairy Expo was a great place to talk about agriculture, to meet new people, to learn more about Farmers Union, and to answer the pressing questions of the day.

Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Ben Brancel (left), and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (right), stopped by the booth at World Dairy Expo, staffed by Mike Stranz (center).

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