Texas dairy farmers visit the Capitol

Texas dairy farmers visit the Capitol

Return to February 2023 Dairy Dispatch

Texas dairy farmers visit the Capitol

By Darren Turley
Executive Director, Texas Association of Dairymen

The Texas Association of Dairymen (TAD) Board of Directors met in Austin recently to hold its annual meeting and visit legislators at the Texas Capitol.

While our industry is represented daily at the Texas Capitol by one of Austin’s premiere government affairs teams, for legislators, nothing is better than hearing from real dairy farmers who live in their districts. That’s why during each legislative session – held during odd-numbered years – the TAD board makes at least one trip to the state Capitol to walk the hallways and talk about how dairy issues have a real impact back on the farm.

This year, the Board’s meeting was once again hosted by Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Sid Miller and his accommodating staff at the Texas Department of Agriculture offices just north of the Capitol. We appreciate Commissioner Miller taking the time to sit down and discuss dairy issues, as well as general agriculture issues such as the ongoing efforts of the department’s Go Texan program to introduce and promote Texas products in the state, nation and abroad.

Following our meeting and visit with Commissioner Miller, TAD board members split into groups to visit legislative offices at the Texas Capitol, where they were able to talk about issues of interest with staff and legislators. One bill we discussed is House Bill 692 by State Rep. Glenn Rogers which would make it easier to dispose of excess milk during a natural disaster or other disaster. This is a problem a number of dairies faced in 2021 during Winter Storm Uri, when milk backed up on the farm after transportation and processors were shut down during the severe weather. The bill also was filed as Senate Bill 872, following our visit, on Feb. 13 by State Sen. Drew Springer.

We appreciate all the legislators who took time out of their busy schedules to speak with us during our Capitol visits, and to Rep. Rogers for meeting us during breakfast and Reps. Ernest Bailes and Mary Gonzalez who dropped by during dinner. You can find photos of our TAD board with some of the legislators we met with here.

This February visit to Austin occurred very early in the legislative session, before any bills have made it to the floors of the Texas House and Senate. In fact, on the day of TAD’s visit, House Speaker Dade Phelan announced the House committee chairman and members.

One new chairman who was announced was State Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, as chair of the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee. Our dairy farmer delegation was the first agriculture group to visit his office after the appointment was announced.

TAD is planning another trip to the Texas Capitol in April, when we’ll have a better idea of how legislation impacting dairy and agriculture is progressing through the system. Meanwhile, our governmental affairs team, including myself, will be on the ground monitoring issues on behalf of our Texas dairy farmers.

As I mentioned, the trip to Austin also included TAD’s annual meeting, where our organization chooses new officers and honors retiring board members. This year, we said goodbye to two members with nine years of service, Mark Ahlmen of Hilmar Cheese and TAD Board Chairman David Volleman, with flags flown over the Texas Capitol. We also honored Shayne Woodard, part of TAD’s governmental relations team since 2004, who departed to take a position as Gov. Greg Abbott’s legislative director.

Thanks to all for their service not only to TAD, but to the Texas dairy industry.

New Board officers who will lead TAD and represent their fellow dairy farmers in 2023 will be: Chairman John Van de Pol, representing Select Milk Producers; First Vice Chair McKenzie Hettinga, representing Hilmar Cheese; Second Vice Chairman Adam Wolf, representing Dairy Farmers of America; Secretary James Hancock, representing Dairy Farmers of America; and Treasurer Braden Mikeska, representing Dairy Farmers of America.

From the Board to the Texas Capitol, your Texas Association of Dairymen is in good hands!

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