• WisBusiness

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Make your voice heard during Dairy Month


By Russ Feingold
As Dairy Month, June is a time to recognize the hard-working farmers and others in the dairy industry who make such great contributions to Wisconsin’s economy and communities. And this June, as Wisconsin prepares to host an upcoming workshop on competition in the dairy industry put on by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), I’m working to make sure there is plenty of opportunity for public input at the workshop, so dairy farmers, cheese makers and other Wisconsinites have their ideas and voices heard.

Scheduled for June 25th in Madison, this meeting is part of a series of joint DOJ/USDA workshops being held across the country to focus on competition in agriculture. At the first of these workshops in Iowa, public comments were only taken once at the end of the day. At a subsequent workshop in Alabama, opportunities for public comment were increased and better integrated into the program. I’ve recently written to Attorney General Eric Holder and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, both of whom will attend the workshop in Madison, urging them to continue this pattern of inviting more public comment. I am pleased that these two departments have taken my advice and plan to include two periods of public comment at the Madison workshop.

Hearing directly from the public is vital to my work in the Senate, which is why I hold listening sessions in every Wisconsin county every year. Not only have I received great ideas from these exchanges, which I have pursued in Washington, but they are a terrific way to get unfiltered viewpoints of real people and not just interest groups. In fact, dairy farmers have consistently expressed concerns at my listening sessions over the years about the state of competition and areas of potential mischief, like the thinly traded cash cheese market in the dairy industry. I can vouch for the value of listening to and acting on public comments like these, and I am glad that Attorney General Holder and Secretary Vilsack are working to make sure there is ample opportunity for them to be voiced.

During my time in the Senate, I have been a leader in fighting anti-competitive practices in agriculture, particularly in the dairy industry. For example, in response to concerns raised by constituents about lack of competition in the industry, I worked to facilitate a dialogue between the Department of Justice and agriculture competition experts last year.

As I continue to hear from Wisconsin dairy farmers and others in the dairy industry about the many challenges they face each month, I will continue to fight anti-competitive practices in the industry.

-- Feingold, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from Wisconsin.

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