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State, federal lawmakers ask for help on milk issue with Canada

State, federal lawmakers ask for help...

WATERLOO, Wis. - Lawmakers and farmers are calling for emergency action for what they're calling a "dire situation."

The clock is ticking for around 75 dairy farmers throughout the state who were informed that as of May 1st their milk would no longer be accepted by their milk processors. Now state and federal lawmakers are pushing for solutions.

Farmers, including Jennifer Sauer who works on her family farm, said if their milk processors drop them they'll have no place to send their supply and may have to shut down completely.

State AG Secretary Ben Brancel met yesterday with members of the dairy industry trying to find solutions.

"The governor has been engaged with the White House. We have sent letters to the USDA as well as the trade representatives. We have notified individuals within those organizations that this has to be at the top of their priority list," Brancel said.

Jennifer Sauer is one of the many dairy farm owners affected and said the wait is getting harder by the day.

"You hope that next phone call is, 'Yes they will take your milk,' and then you hope that this never happens again," said Sauer

State and federal lawmakers, as well as the state Department of Agriculture, are all trying to intervene on behalf of farmers like the Saures. The couple were one of 75 other farmers informed that grassland dairy products will no longer accept their milk because of a trade issue with Canada.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan sent a letter, along with Congressman Sean Duffy and cosigned by the Wisconsin Congressional delegation, to Commerce Secretary Ross, Acting U.S. Trade Representative Stephen Vaughn, and Acting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Michael Young. The letter highlighted concerns surrounding Canada's restrictions on American milk exports.

“Exports are critical to the viability of Wisconsin’s dairy farms. These families rely on them for their very livelihood. I am encouraged by this bipartisan effort and will continue to work with my colleagues and impacted stakeholders to break down these trade barriers and reach a practical solution,” said Congressman Ryan in the letter.

All of Wisconsin's congressional delegation, as well as the governor,  sent a letter WEdnesday to the U.S. commerce and agriculture secretaries, as well as the U.S. trade representative. They are asking for "immediate action to address this dire situation." Lawmakers believe Canada is violating those trade obligations.

"We are just hoping that someone will give us an answer and give us an answer soon so we can continue our operation, and if we can't continue our operation, we need to make those decisions on what we need to do next," Sauer said.

Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis at UW-Madison, believes it won't be easy to find a solution because there is an excess of milk and not a big enough market.

While processors may be maxed out on dairy, Stephenson believes bartering with Canada on other trade agreements could tip the scale.

"If you are rattling a saber and threatening other things that could be uncomfortable with Canada. You could say back off on dairy and we will give you some slack on dairy," he said.

For the Saures, their farm is more than a job. They say they don’t plan to give up without trying to find a solution.

"This isn't a job to us -- it's a lifestyle. So we are going to continue. We are going to fight till the end. We are not going to give up," said Sauer.

Affected dairy farmers have scheduled a private meeting this Friday to try to find possible solutions.


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