Wisconsin farmers and rural communities are the backbone of our state and a central part of our proud agricultural history. Supporting our farmers and rural communities is vital to the success of the state as a whole. More proactive steps must be taken to support and invigorate Wisconsin’s agricultural industry, as well as our rural businesses and communities. The Governor’s 2021-2023 budget proposes historic investments in Wisconsin’s agricultural economy.
Expanding Local and International Market Opportunities
Wisconsin is home to strong food production, processing, and distribution networks that move products from those who grow them to those who need them. In Wisconsin, agriculture is a vital employer, with about one in nine people in the state working in a job related to agriculture. Governor Evers proposes several initiatives to help expand economic opportunities for Wisconsin agricultural producers and businesses, by encouraging the development of local markets for Wisconsin products and partnering with producers to increase exports to international markets.
Three-Pronged Plan to Bolster Local Meat Processing
The long-term prosperity of Wisconsin’s agricultural industry relies on the resiliency and success of our food supply chains and rural communities. As a state, we need to bolster our agricultural infrastructure and train workers for the most needed positions, from meat processing to food distribution. Over the last year, the critical role of Wisconsin-based meat processors has become strikingly apparent. Governor Evers proposes three initiatives that aim to bolster Wisconsin’s livestock and meat processing industry:
- Create a Meat Processor Grant program to target the needs of the meat industry, incentivize innovation, and expand Wisconsin’s overall meat processing capacity.
- Create and fund a Meat Talent Development Program to specifically target meat industry workforce development and help spur growth in Wisconsin’s meat processing industry.
- Add additional Food Inspector Positions at DATCP to ensure a safe, secure food supply as our meat industry grows.
Promoting Agricultural Innovation & Farmer-Led Conservation
New and emerging agricultural practices such as managed grazing present significant opportunities for both conservation and economic growth. Farmers are partners and leaders in our efforts to be stewards of our natural resources and ensure all families and businesses in Wisconsin can rely on clean water. The Governor proposes multiple initiatives to promote agricultural sustainability and farmer-led conservation:
- Create and fund a Value-Added Agricultural Grant Program, which would provide education and technical assistance related to producing value-added agricultural products, such as organic farming and best practices related to grazing.
- Provide additional funding to counties in order to support three conservation staff per county. • Increase funding for the Producer-Led Watershed Grant Program, which supports farmer groups working collaboratively to address local water issues.
- Create and fund Water Stewardship Grants which provides support for third parties assisting farmers with water stewardship.
- Create and fund a Conservation Grant Program which supports farmers seeking to transition to more environmentally sustainable agricultural practices.
- Provide funding in order to support additional UW-Extension specialists and county agents, who provide both on-the-ground technical assistance and research to support producers throughout Wisconsin.
Supporting Farmers’ Mental Health & Wellbeing
Wisconsin’s agricultural workforce has been and will always be essential to our state’s overall success. After several years of low commodity prices, difficult weather, and trade wars, the COVID-19 pandemic created a series of new and unprecedented challenges. In a profession that is unpredictable by nature, it makes sense that these issues would cause significant stress for some farmers. The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) have provided critical information and referral services to farmers looking for mental health assistance.