It’s 7:00AM Saturday morning. Not early for a dairy farmer; except yesterday’s work ended at nearly midnight. I am heading over to meet folks attending the Rural Electric Co-op breakfast.
Over pancakes, a farmer from Independence explains he is caught between falling milk prices, rising input costs and manure rules. “They want me to spend $50,000 to store manure.” He can’t afford that.
Another man asked, “Can you help me with disability? Talk to my wife when you call. I just can’t hear anymore.”
Listening to people’s problems and connecting them with services is an important part of my job. People think their ‘senator’ is just debating policy at the capitol. Yes, that happens, but I spend equal time on the ‘constituent’ side.
Sometimes the problems people face are not easily solved. Often people come to me when they have exhausted all other avenues. Unfortunately, with scarce resources, every problem does not have a happy ending.
Some cases require a phone call and some take months to resolve. Last week my staff member, Ben Larson, and I got the necessary state paperwork to move an adoption forward. This case, which began last September, does have a happy ending as the children begin life with their new family.
Also last week, veterans traveled from Sparta to testify on two bills establishing days of honor for Korean and Vietnam veterans. With the help of people in Altoona and Sparta, Representative Radcliffe and I worked to permanently honor veterans of these conflicts; something that should have happened years ago.
It’s now mid-day Saturday and another farmer co-op meeting.
A Jackson County woman told me, “The drugs each cost $100 and the whole bill was $2,400. I had to pay it because we fell into the ‘doughnut hole’.” I told her about Senior Care – the highly successful state drug buying program for eligible seniors. “Wisconsin is able to reduce costs by using the buying power of a large group of seniors and negotiating prices; something we should do for Medicare,” I said.
“Can you stop this oil tax?” another rural woman asked. “I am afraid it’s going to get passed on to the farmer. It already costs us too much for fertilizer and chemicals.”
“I am looking into this,” I tell her. “The Governor says it would be illegal to pass the tax on but convenience stores say different. It really concerns me.”
“I am upset with this cap and trade thing,” said the retired business owner. “Everybody knows global warming doesn’t exist. This will make my utility rates go up.” He continued, “I hear you won’t be in Madison when I come to visit. It’s your job to be there when I come to see you.
“Which day is that?” I ask. I remember my schedule…Leave at 8am; speak with conservationists in Eau Claire; down to Hixton to speak with the county board and extension people. Back to Eau Claire for taping community television and more visits; then Memomonie to give the graduation address to farmers finishing their dairy education. I should get home by midnight.
“It’s hard to be everywhere all at once.” I answer.
It’s now after 10:00PM. I’m headed home after honoring folks who work for Marten Trucking. Drivers who safely reach a Million Miles were inducted into the Hall of Fame. I found much in common with the inductees. I drive over seven-hundred miles a week. It’s lonely, late at night and through all kinds of weather. But that’s my job.
I asked a gal who reached the Three Million Mile mark what it takes to drive a million miles.
“You take it one mile at a time,” she answered. “And do the best you can.”
These are words I can live by.