WASHINGTON – Wisconsin Farmers Union members were among the more than 300 farmers and ranchers who gathered in the nation’s capital last week for National Farmers Union’s Fall Legislative Fly-In. The annual event allows members from across the country to meet directly with lawmakers, USDA leaders and other administration officials to discuss issues important to family farmers and ranchers.

“As a farmer-led organization, grassroots advocacy and education are a big part of Farmers Union,” said WFU President and Westby dairy farmer Darin Von Ruden. “The fly-in is an opportunity for members to meet with their representatives in Congress and put a face to the issues impacting rural America. Given the state of the farm economy, we need to ensure policies are supporting family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities.”

NFU Fly-In participants spent three days in Washington speaking with their elected officials on legislative solutions to issues that heavily affect their farming and ranching operations.

“Times are tough right now for American family farmers and ranchers,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “And when times get tough for farmers, Farmers Union members step up and advocate.”

“We’ve seen a dramatic, 50 percent drop in farm income over the past four years,” Johnson continued. “At the same time, farmers are enduring major weather volatility due to climate change, uncertainty over foreign trade markets, massive consolidation of farms and agribusiness companies, and the ongoing degradation of farming and rural community infrastructure and services.”

Johnson notes that NFU members are especially concerned about the prospect of an adequate farm safety net through the 2018 Farm Bill, bipartisan health care system fixes that ensure accessible, affordable, quality health care, and expanded markets for American grown, renewable fuels, including E30 and advanced biofuels.

The event began with a briefing at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Members heard from USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett, National Resources Conservation Service Acting Chief Leonard Jordan and USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Administrator Hubert Hamer.

Participants met with U.S. Senate and House of Representatives agriculture committees’ staff members to gain insight into the committees’ fall agendas.