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Farmers advocate for ag legislation

More than 275 farmers and agriculturists attended a policy briefing in Madison this past month to advocate for agricultural legislation. The annual Ag Day at the Capitol event was presented by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and held at the Monona Terrace.

Randy Romanski, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary, opened the session by emphasizing that despite polarization, lawmakers are committed to reaching agreements on ag-related bills. He referenced recent legislation that created the Agricultural Roads Improvement Program, which pays local governments for road, bridge and culvert repairs.

“This program will get products from the farm gate to the dinner plate,” Romanski said.

He also cited the expanded Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants, which received a funding increase to support more organizations. He urged those in the room to use their same advocating strategies on the state’s congressional delegation to pass a new farm bill.

“It’s important to get the farm bill done,” he said. “Not just an extension, but a farm bill that invests at the federal level in programs that make a difference.”

After lunch, Senators Patrick Testin, R-24-Stevens Point, Brad Pfaff, D-32-Onalaska, and Joan Ballweg, R-41-Markesan, were joined by Representatives Tony Kurtz, R-50-Wonewoc, Dave Considine, D-81-Baraboo, and Travis Tranel, R-49-Cuba City, to discuss policy issues critical to the industry. The panel discussed improving access services for farm families, the government’s role in new ag technologies and stabilizing the workforce.

Regarding healthcare, Kurtz said it’s important to bolster critical-access hospitals in the state. Because if they close, that leads to closures of rural-access hospitals that rural residents depend on.

Regarding technology, Tranel mentioned how the University of Wisconsin-Dairy Innovation Hub will become an important resource.

“The research could tell what’s viable, and help farmers and producers digest everything being thrown at them,” he said.

When the conversation moved to labor-force issues, Ballweg said people must be incentivized to work and stay in the state. Testin added that void could be filled through income-tax incentives. He also mentioned that Congress needs to implement a safe and legal pathway to broaden the immigrant workforce.

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