“We need a Governor who understands agriculture and will focus on addressing both the immediate financial stress farmers are facing this year and the long-term health of agriculture producers in the Dairy State.”
Trade wars, a glut of milk, low commodity prices, and, in some cases, high debt conspire to create a farm crisis in Wisconsin like we’ve not seen in years.
USDA predicted farm income will drop to a 12-year low this year. Corn and soybean prices dropped roughly twenty-percent.Hog prices dropped to their lowest price since 2003 as both China and Mexico imposed tariffs on US pork. Dairy farmers are facing a fourth year of milk prices below the cost of production.
Not surprisingly, Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017, and about 340 farms in the first half of 2018. Our total number of milk-cow herds is around 7,600. This is about a twenty-percent decline in just five years.
We need a Governor who understands agriculture and will focus on addressing both the immediate financial stress farmers are facing this year and the long-term health of agriculture producers in the Dairy State.
First, we must open wide the social safety net to get farm families the immediate help they need. This includes protection from foreclosure and adequate consumer protection, access to healthcare though BadgerCare and supplemental nutrition programs and technical assistance to help with needed innovations and improvements.
To provide long term help with low dairy prices, as Governor, I will work with our congressional delegation to support a federal supply management program and transparent dairy pricing system to replace the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I support a national market-loss assistance program directed at family farmers and would advocate for a cap on payments based on production.
Wisconsin can act now to protect our family dairy farms. Too much milk in the market creates an unsustainable environment for farmers. We can act to prohibit volume premiums that encourage over production. Wisconsin can support creameries experimenting with supply management strategies.
We must encourage sustainable environmental practices in both state and national policy. As Governor, I will provide additional state support for conservation improvements and watershed protection projects.
My long-term vision for Wisconsin agriculture is based on the importance of value-added products produced in Wisconsin. Every consumer dollar we capture is more money for Wisconsin farmers. I support and will enact state policies that increase farmer’s income. This means developing value-added strategies across Wisconsin that increase opportunities for sales directly to consumers. For example, I support creating a farmer to consumer program that protects public health and allows on-farm direct sales of raw milk.
I envision DATCP under my administration assisting in the marketing and processing infrastructure with new products from Wisconsin grown hemp. I intend to expand the number of farmers involved in the hemp program. I support the creation of new laws that use the best practices of other states and encourages local farmers to experiment with different varieties of cannabis sativa as Wisconsin works to legalize both medicinal and recreational marijuana.
As Governor, I will fully fund the school breakfast and school milk program including the use of whole milk. I will fully fund the Buy Local Buy Wisconsin and the Farm to School programs (both of which were cut back by the current governor.)
Further, I will establish assistance for new farmers entering ag with mentoring, technical assistance with local ag agents and access to capital. I strongly oppose any efforts to weaken our county-based agriculture extension agents and their resources.
I will invest in a massive build-out of broadband in Wisconsin. Called Moving Broadband Forward, my plan will require broadband expansion meet the federal definition of broadband and be targeted to areas of the state most in need. Further, my proposal loosens the restrictions on municipalities, counties and towns, allowing local communities to decide their own broadband future. My plan tightens accountability on private companies using public money to build out broadband.
You can read more about my broadband plans here: Moving Broadband Forward
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