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Opinion | Wisconsin must Invest in agriculture

Opinion | Wisconsin must Invest in agriculture

Holstein heifers grazing cover crops (copy) (copy)

Dairy heifers graze cover crops that are planted after winter-wheat harvest at Echo-Y Farms near Loganville, Wisconsin.

When the pandemic began last year and many folks adjusted to life at home, farmers, processors and other agriculture community members were on the frontlines. In fact, Wisconsin farmers have been essential workers for centuries. In times of peace, war, pandemic or recession, our crop, dairy and meat producers have kept Wisconsin fed. Recognizing this fact, we know that what’s good for the agriculture community is good for our state. That’s why last month at the World Dairy Expo we introduced a comprehensive bill package to invest nearly $25 million into Wisconsin farmers and agriculture.

The Invest in Agriculture, Grow our Future bill package will directly support our farmers, strengthen their ties to our communities and create new markets. These five bills help meet the diverse needs of agriculture stakeholders.

The pandemic has seen farm-to-fork and farm-to-school programs become increasingly popular and necessary. Connecting local produce, meat and dairy to Wisconsin dinner tables and lunchrooms is a win-win. The farm-to-school initiative will prioritize school districts where a high percentage of students are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch. Similarly, the farm-to-fork program helps farmers partner with hospitals, nursing homes and other large cafeterias to ensure that more residents enjoy locally grown fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Wisconsin-grown food fosters an appreciation for farmers and the agricultural process while promoting good eating habits.

We’re also committed to finding ways for farmers to access new markets while helping their communities. For example, the Food Security and Wisconsin Products Grant Program will award grants to food banks and nonprofits to purchase Wisconsin-grown food, supporting our state’s agriculture industry and those struggling to put food on the table.

Expanding the Something Special from Wisconsin initiative builds upon the two previous proposals by prominently featuring Wisconsin-made products in grocery stores and delis across the country. Additionally, the Meat Talent Development Program seizes the opportunity in meat processing to forge Wisconsin’s legacy as an animal agriculture state. Incentivizing young people to enter this promising industry will help diversify our meat product lines and create new family-supporting jobs.

Finally, our proposal provides farmers with additional regional consultation services to assist with production, marketing and regulation questions. We want DATCP to be as effective as possible in helping farmers with their problems when they ask.

We’re proud to be America’s Dairyland. To move our state forward, farm families and rural residents should have the tools they need to succeed. The investments we’re making aren’t just for the here-and-now but for the next generation of rural prosperity in our state.

Brad Pfaff represents the 32nd Senate District, which includes La Crosse, Vernon, Crawford and southern Monroe County.

Dave Considine represents the 81st Assembly District, which includes parts of Sauk, Columbia, Dane and Iowa County.

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