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Kevin Collins from Collins Dairy Farm in Morrison hosted Senator Ron Johnson last week, where the senator met with area members of the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association.
By Brian Roebke
Sen. Ron Johnson visited Collins Dairy Farm in Morrison last week to accept the endorsement of the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association.
Kevin and Lisa Collins purchased a 40-cow farm in 1987 and were given an opportunity to purchase their current farm in 1993 and now milk 1,400 cows and operate on 3,000 acres. They’re currently building a new milking parlor.
“With farming over the years we started doing a lot of sustainable stuff like cover crops,” Kevin Collins said. “We are talking to a digester firm about doing some digestion just to be sustainable to society and show them that it’s kind of the trend going to do things right and we try to stay on the top end of the curve on that.”
Collins said the biggest challenge is knowing if they have a market for their milk. Currently it all goes to Arla Foods in Hollandtown.
“Exports and marketing are a big thing for us,” he said. “I don’t think farmers need handouts. It’s just that we need a market and we need exports and we can do the rest.”
Johnson always appreciates the opportunity to hear about agriculture.
“What’s interesting about the export market is you find out how complex these trade deals are,” he said. “Most countries want to be able to feed themselves.”
Johnson said he’s one of the few United States Senators who likes the smell of a dairy farm.
“My parents both grew up on dairy farms,” he said. “I have baled hay, and that is work. But then we were always rewarded with ice cold beer.”
Johnson said he’s done everything on a dairy farm except artificial insemination. “My uncle tried to talk me into that one time and I said, ‘no, I’ll let you put on the long glove,’” he said.
He admitted his business is plastics and he doesn’t understand agriculture as much as he would like to, but he knows there’s been so much change in the dairy business since his parents were on the farm.
He learned as a U.S. Senator that Wisconsin embraced professional management compared to Minnesota, which stayed traditional “and Wisconsin blew the socks off of them in terms of dairy production.”
He was shocked to learn farmers don’t know what they are getting paid for their milk until weeks later.
“I understand how complex and how challenging the dairy business is,” he said. “I also understand how complex just business is. It’s not easy.”
He feels he’s unique in Congress because he has a lifetime of experience in the private sector so he has knowledge of and sympathy for the private sector. “Not many bureaucrats or staff members or members of Congress have that kind of experience,” he said.
During tax reform, he saw Congress wanted to cut taxes for the largest businesses in America, but he told them they can’t leave 95 percent of businesses behind.
“So I dug my heels in, I was scorned by Wisconsin talk radio as grandstanding Senator but I was just sticking up for small business,” he said.
Many business owners told him that helped them survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m pretty proud of that accomplishment but in politics that gets twisted and distorted into my tax cut was just for a few,” he said. “It was for the many, and I’m pretty proud of that.”
Johnson is impressed with how many business owners treat their employees as family, and they often wait too long to lay them off during bad times because they want to keep them employed, only to sometimes suffer consequences later on.
“I think that’s really cool,” he said.
Johnson believes the federal government’s primary responsibility is to defend freedom.
“I tell my constituents not to look to the federal government to try to solve your problems,” he said. “It’s not to solve problems. It screws more up. It’s there to defend your freedom.”