Farmers were a focal point of Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ State of the State address, which he delivered last Wednesday night. In that address, Evers announced a package of bills to support agriculture and rural communities in the Badger State.
Evers called this a three-pronged plan, which starts with a special session of the Legislature to be held Tuesday, January 28, in Madison, Wis. The roughly $8.5 million package would bolster dairy exports, expand grant opportunities for on-farm processing, provide mental health support, and more.
“We want to make sure we really do connect the dots for long-term strategies, not just in agriculture, but for rural prosperity in our state,” Evers said in a teleconference following the State of the State address. “We want to make sure we are moving forward in a proactive way.”
He indicated that this package “is anything but a handout.” He said, “We are looking for a way to help farmers stay strong.”
Interim Agriculture Secretary Randy Romanski supported Evers’ comments. “Agriculture is part of our heritage,” he said. “An investment in Wisconsin farmers is an investment in the state’s economy.”
Although there has been some tension between the Democratic governor and the state’s Republican leaders in the past, both Evers and Romanski expressed confidence that the package of bills would get support from both parties.
“Agriculture is not a partisan issue,” Romanski said during the teleconference. “I think everybody supports investing in our rural economic structure and our farmers and supporting their dedication and commitment to the rural economy.”
Romanski said he believed farmers with small and medium-sized operations could use these resources, not only to survive but to improve their bottom line. “We look forward to working with the Legislature to see these proposals through,” he added.
“We are past the point of pointing fingers,” Evers explained. “We just need to get work done. Our farmers need us.”
From a dairy standpoint, Governor Evers’ proposal would include a $1 million commitment toward the Wisconsin Initiative for Dairy Exports. That initiative, if passed, would work in conjunction with current efforts by the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) to move U.S. dairy exports from 15% to 20% of the nation’s milk supply. Over 90% of Wisconsin’s milk goes to cheese, and most of that product is destined for sales outside the state’s borders.
An additional $1 million would go toward the Dairy Processor Grant program to fund new and innovative dairy processing opportunities.
More details about the proposed bills in Wisconsin can be found at the following links:
- LRB-5420/LRB-5439 relating to: grants to dairy processing plants and making an appropriation.
- LRB-5413/LRB-5433 relating to: providing planning assistance to farmers and making an appropriation.
- LRB-5416/LRB-5436 relating to: farm to school grants and making an appropriation.
- LRB-5419/LRB-5438 relating to: regional farmer support for stress and mental illness and making an appropriation.
- LRB-5424/LRB-5440 relating to: creating a Small Farm Diversity grant program, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation.
- LRB-5449/LRB-5450 relating to: county-based agriculture positions in the Division of Extension of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and making an appropriation.
- LRB-5412/LRB-5432 relating to: promoting production of value-added agricultural products; creating an organic farming education grant program, a grazing education grant program, and a farm to fork grant program; providing resource conservation technical assistance; granting rule-making authority; and making an appropriation.
- LRB-5414/LRB-5434 relating to: the Wisconsin Initiative for Dairy Exports and making an appropriation.