State News

Democratic lawmakers unveil plan for agriculture special session

In a press conference Tuesday, Democrats provided more details for Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to improve agricultural and rural communities before the special session starts Thursday. 

In a press conference Tuesday, Democrats provided more details for Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to improve agricultural and rural communities before the special session starts Thursday. 

Image By: Kylie Ver Kuilen

Democratic legislators announced details Tuesday on how Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to provide resources to Wisconsin’s rural communities and agricultural producers will be implemented across the state.

Evers called for a special legislative session during his State of the State address to ask lawmakers to create bills to help dairy farmers.

Sen. Jeff Smith, D-Eau Claire, and other Democratic lawmakers outlined some of the plans that will be proposed during the session.

Among the proposed changes would be restructuring the Dairy Processor Grant program to favor small plants, increasing staff at UW-Extensions across the state and introducing a bill calling for the creation of a Small Farm Diversity Grant program. 

“We are finally starting to understand that Wisconsin thrives when all of Wisconsin thrives. When rural Wisconsin is successful, Wisconsin is successful,” Smith said.

Smith also supported one of Evers’ proposals to increase U.S. dairy exports to 20 percent of the nation’s milk supply by 2024. Smith said the legislature would set benchmarks to help reach that objective.  

Wisconsin farmers have faced the worst economic downturn since the 1980s Farm Crisis, which has led to loss of farms and a “major increase in their stress levels,” according to a supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.

Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, a farmer for 10 years before becoming a lawmaker, stressed the importance of bringing financial and other resources closer to the farmers. 

“This [legislation] is taking what we have to offer in resources, in research, and taking it to the farmers and their community,” Considine said. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, responded to the Democrats’ rollout, saying he was frustrated with Gov. Evers’ and Lieutenant Governor’s Mandela Barnes’ “media tour” promoting their executive order. 

Vos said he still appreciates Evers recognizing the importance of agriculture, calling it a “bipartisan priority,” and that the Assembly will begin the special session on Jan. 30.. 

“We’re open to amending the bills or introducing our own proposals in order to do what’s best for rural Wisconsin,” Vos said.

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