DBA has been working since the beginning of the year to ensure the dairy community was not overlooked in the coming state budget. Now that Gov. Evers has signed the budget bill, we know where we had success and where we need to continue to push for our members.
There are two budget provisions - that we worked particularly hard on.
Dairy Innovation Hub – This is an investment in next level dairy research at three UW System schools: Madison, Platteville and River Falls. It dedicates $8.8 million in funding over the next two years to hire researchers to focus on innovative product development, land and water stewardship concerns, animal welfare considerations and strengthening the economic vitality of rural communities.
Farmer-led conservation groups funding – DBA actively supports a handful of farmer-led conservation groups throughout the state. We were one of the groups that originally advocated for the creation of a grant program to help grow these groups. We’re pleased that both lawmakers and the governor recognize the value in the program and significantly increased the state funding for it.
Neither of these wins could have been possible without the help of other allied groups. Also, both measures enjoyed bipartisan support and we are grateful for our legislative champions and the governor’s ultimate approval of these items.
There were other items where we made progress, but more work needs to be done.
CAFO program changes – The governor’s original proposal to drastically increase CAFO fees was pulled out of the budget. DBA was clear that we could not support any fee increase, even a modest one, unless it was tied to specific improvements in the program. For us, that likely meant more sharing of duties between DNR and DATCP. Ultimately, while fees did not increase, some new positions may be added at DNR. The goal of these new positions is to improve permitting and reduce response time.
Transportation funding – We had two priorities for road funding: 1) a long-term sustainable funding solution for road funding and 2) ensuring that rural roads and infrastructure are not forgotten in the funding discussion. Some improvements were made and rural roads were singled out for additional dollars, but more could have been done. Ultimately, we are still looking for the long-term strategy that our state needs.
Finally, there are a handful of items that were either pulled from the budget or never made it in that we’re going to continue working on. Some are already standalone bills and the rest could be for this legislative session or sometime in the future.
Driver’s permits for immigrants – DBA has been working on this issue for a decade. Gov. Evers proposed this in his draft budget, but it was removed by the legislature. We’re working to see a bipartisan bill introduced on this issue later this year.
Dairy processor grants – Gov. Evers proposed doubling the modest amount of money for state dairy processor grants. This did not make it into the final version of the budget. We hope it might be something that could be pursued later in the session or perhaps next budget.
Dairy export promotion funding – Gov. Evers also proposed a special line item to help DATCP better promote Wisconsin dairy exports. There is strong bipartisan support for the concept and we hope that additional resources can be given to these important efforts.
Improving access to capital for rural businesses – The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority’s process for making lending decision favors urban investments. A bill has been introduced to make the process fairer. DBA will work with our cheese maker partners to get it passed.
Fixing an issue with MAC – Many farmers have used the manufacturing and ag tax credit, which is commonly known as MAC. The law does not allow farmers to count crop insurance proceeds as revenue for purposes of calculating the credit. It appears this was just an oversight and we want to fix it.
Thank you to all our members who came to Madison to help us lobby on the state budget or reached out to your lawmakers by email or telephone on any of these issues. You make us far more effective than we could ever be alone.