Mike Traxinger sees farming from both sides as a fifth-generation farmers and general counsel and director of governmental affairs for Agtegra Cooperative in South Dakota.
A few years ago, Mike Traxinger found himself in a room with 25 policymakers in Washington, D.C. The group was talking about Section 199A, a tax deduction for farmer-owned cooperatives and their member-owners. As general counsel and director of governmental affairs for Agtegra Cooperative, which serves farmers in more than 70 communities in North Dakota and South Dakota, Traxinger had been to similar gatherings before.
That’s when the fifth-generation farmer realized he was the only one in the room who had actually received a 199A tax deduction from his co-op, so he shared his on-farm perspective.
“I was able to help inform those in the room how the Section 199A tax deduction actually works for the cooperative and also myself as a member-owner,” Traxinger says. “I realized that day, more than ever before, that it is vital to have people advocating for farmers and ranchers who actually understand ag and know how these decisions impact rural America.”
That dual role defines much of Traxinger’s life. He grew up working on a 200-head Simmental cattle operation with his parents, Mike and Terri, and his sister, Brittney. The family also farms about 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans.
“Growing up, I wanted to help my neighbors and I saw that advocacy and influencing policy were ways to help farmers and ranchers.”
After receiving bachelor’s degrees in political science and journalism from the University of Minnesota, he worked in Washington, D.C., for a member of Congress. In 2012, Traxinger earned his law degree from Drake University. He’s been at Agtegra since 2014. “Working for my local cooperative just felt like coming home.”
Throughout it all, he never missed out on milestones of farming life: planting, caring for livestock, calving, his family’s annual bull sale, breeding cows, feeding and then working through harvest. On a typical day, he’ll stop by his family’s farm before or after work to help with cattle or other farm work.
“My dad and I really support each other,” he says. “Yesterday, I was on the farm helping with cattle and in the afternoon, he stopped by my house to fix a leak in the roof. How we work together as a family makes me proud to be a farm kid.”
And it’s why being a voice for cooperatives and farmers is a responsibility Traxinger takes personally. “I grew up with the members I now advocate for and serve. I can bring things I’m hearing in the community to our co-op board and leadership.”
Related: How co-ops help farmers succeed
“Cooperatives weather the storm to support farmers and ranchers. We’re about making our member-owners successful, because they own our business. I’m passionate about the cooperative business model,” says Traxinger. He just took that commitment one step further by joining the board of his local electric co-op, Northern Electric.
“I’m excited to be involved at the community level,” he says, “and to help further support and develop the cooperative system.”
Check out the full C magazine with this article and more.