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Turlock dairy farmer visits Capitol Hill
Dairy Farmer pic
Pete Mensonides

Pete Mensonides, a dairy farmer from Turlock, was among more than 65 Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. (DFA) Board members and Young Cooperators (YCs) who visited Capitol Hill last week to discuss issues affecting the dairy industry. DFA members and staff convened in Washington, D.C., for the cooperative’s annual D.C. board meeting and Hill visits, where they conducted more than 175 visits with legislators.

Mensonides met with Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and his staff and the staffs of Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Dairying since 1962, Mensonides milks 450 cows on 80 acres of land and raises all of his own replacements. He has served on several boards in California, including Cal Gold Cooperative, Dairy Marketing Cooperative and Modesto Milling Feed Cooperative. He currently serves on his church board.

Each year, this group of elected cooperative leaders travels to the nation’s capital to emphasize the need for policy that is supportive of agriculture, and specifically dairy.

“It is vitally important that dairy farmers voice their needs to the elected officials who represent them,” said Jackie Klippenstein, DFA vice president of legislative and industry affairs. “This annual trip provides a forum for our members to educate and inform those who are in a position to enact legislation that serves the needs of the dairy industry.”

A key piece of discussion during legislative visits this year was the need for dairy policy reform to help minimize volatility in the industry. DFA members encouraged Congress to pass dairy policy reform in 2011, ahead of the next Farm Bill, and voiced support for Foundation for the Future, a package of policy proposals that has been developed by National Milk Producers Federation and its farmer cooperative members, as well as other dairy groups.

Other topics included the dairy sector’s need for a reliable, legal and stable labor force, as well as the importance of adapting renewable energy policy to strike a better balance among the needs of all segments of rural America.

Mensonides also had the opportunity to hear from several speakers, including senior advisors to President Barack Obama and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. During the regular board meeting that coincided with the trip, attendees were joined by Michael Scuse, acting under secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), who briefed the group on actions taken by USDA to support the dairy sector during the recent low price cycle, efforts to open foreign markets to U.S. products and USDA’s role in providing assistance to rural areas dealing with flooding and destructive tornadoes.