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Legislative Priorities
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2019-2020 Legislative Priorities

Address water quality challenges

  • We know Wisconsin has water quality challenges. Agriculture is part of this
    multi-faceted problem and farmers want to be part of the solution.
  • With that in mind, DBA has been working with farmer-led conservation initiatives throughout the state for years. We are also active participants in the nitrate working group headed by Representative Joel Kitchens and we will be engaging with the Speaker’s Taskforce on Water Quality.
  • As part of a revision of NR 151 in 2018, new targeted performance standards were enacted for parts of eastern Wisconsin. We should target additional funds to help implement those standards.
  • We should also increase support for farmer-led conservation initiatives, which are making significant progress. They allow farmers to learn from other farmers and provide real-world laboratories to test new ideas.
  • We can fund programs for rural wells that will provide immediate relief for people with unclean water while providing the agricultural community with time to address long-term solutions. There are already legislative proposals that would do just that.
  • While agriculture needs to be accountable, we should also take a common-sense approach to improve the rules governing well construction and septic systems.

Provide opportunities for nutrient-trading to grow

  • Like carbon trading, nutrient trading could be used to reduce the amount
    of phosphorus and other nutrients that reach surface and groundwater.
  • A rural community’s wastewater treatment plant could spend $10 million on upgrades and only slightly reduce their phosphorus discharge. Alternatively, that same utility could have a far greater impact on water quality for a fraction of the cost by partnering with farmers to reduce phosphorus runoff.
  • Nutrient trading is a win-win for industry, agriculture and the environment.
  • There are regulatory changes needed to make this type of trading easier and more popular. AB 113/SB 91 would make those changes. It has broad bipartisan support and should be passed as soon as possible.

Create driver’s card for non-citizens

  • Despite farmers following all applicable laws regarding hiring, oftentimes our employees lack the documentation they need to drive legally.
  • DBA supports the creation of a unique driver’s card for non-citizen motorists.
  • This is a public safety issue and these cards will ensure that those who are driving on our roads are properly trained, insured and accountable.
  • It is also an economic development issue. Wisconsin already faces a serious labor shortage, and this problem is the worst in rural parts of the state. We need all the workers we can get to keep our economy growing. This includes making sure potential workers can get to where the jobs are safely and legally.
  • These cards could only be used to drive and would not confer any other rights
    or privileges such as voting.

Fund next-generation dairy research

  • The University of Wisconsin System is a global leader in dairy research, but low milk prices have left our dairy community needing more. The question is how to effectively leverage this asset, preserve our global prominence and help the industry weather these challenging economic times.
  • The Dairy Innovation Hub is the answer. This is a multi-campus, multi-disciplinary initiative to hire top-level young researchers in the areas of land/water stewardship, human health/nutrition, animal welfare and rural business/community development.
  • The hub strategy will attract the world’s best research talent to our state and provide the tools for making important new discoveries. It will also grow a national network of key researchers that have a connection back to UW.
  • The state’s annual investment would be $7.9 million, which is less than 0.02% of the nearly $44 billion the dairy community generates each year for our state’s economy.
  • This research will help dairy farmers and processors to bring innovative products to market and use production methods that further reduce our environmental impact and exceed costumer expectations.
  • This proposal was not included in the UW System’s budget, but standalone legislation is being drafted.

Address long-term transportation funding

  • Farmers depend on roads to ship their milk to processors, and processors need them to get their products to customers. Farmers also depend on these roads to move equipment needed to plant, grow and harvest the crops used to feed their animals.
  • The rural roads where many of the dairy farms are located are deteriorating and cannot handle modern farm equipment’s size. This can unfairly pit responsible farmers against local governments.
  • DBA supports a sound and sustainable way to pay for transportation projects, including our rural roads. DBA recognizes that Wisconsin must increase revenue for transportation funds and is concerned about continuing high levels of borrowing.

2019-2020 Budget Priorities

Support Dairy Innovation Hub – This is an investment in dairy research at
UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls. It will enable Wisconsin to remain a global leader in dairy research. The areas of focus for the new researchers will include the development of innovative new dairy products and how we can better safeguard water quality. This wasn’t included in the UW System budget, so we want JFC to include $7.9 million per year to fund this in the budget they send to the governor.

Support Wisconsin Initiative for Dairy Exports – DATCP is seeking $200,000 to help promote dairy exports from Wisconsin. This will help continue the highly successful reverse trade missions that were started by the department. The goal is to drive dairy exports up from 15% to 20% of our milk supply. Boosting our access to new markets is one of the best things we can do to boost milk prices. This was in Governor Evers’ budget and we want it in the final bill too.

Support increased road funding – We need a long-term fix to our state’s transportation funding needs. We cannot continue to borrow to pay for our roads at existing rates. We understand that a good solution will include some new revenue for roads. The governor’s transportation plan is a good start, although we know the final plan will be a compromise and will look different. We want a proposal that will take care of funding needs for years to come and recognizes the importance of rural roads to our state’s economy.

Oppose CAFO fee increase – Governor Evers included a proposal to significantly increase the fees paid by CAFOs during the permitting process. We oppose this increase. Nobody is happy with the CAFO program. It is a letdown to farmers, environmental activists and many with the DNR. Adding funding or a few more staff members to a program that really needs a complete overhaul is not a solution. We can talk about how to better fund and staff the program, but that should be part of an effort to improve the program from the ground up.

Support farmer-led conservation initiatives – DBA has supported these farmer-led groups since the start. They are one of the best things we can do for water quality in the state. They allow farmers to learn from one another about new practices that can improve soil health and reduce the possibility of runoff. They also provide us with a local, real-world laboratory to try out innovative new ideas at the watershed level. Governor Evers recommended increasing funding for these programs in his budget. We support continuing to fund and grow these worthwhile initiatives across the state.

Support driver’s card for non-citizens – DBA has long supported allowing immigrant workers to be allowed to drive legally provided they are properly trained and insured. From our perspective, this a public safety and economic development issue. Governor Evers included a provision to allow that in his budget proposal. His proposal might not be included in the budget that will be passed by the Legislature. We appreciate his support on this issue and we will continue to work on the issue outside of the budget process too.

Support dairy processor grants – Governor Evers proposed doubling the amount of money we spend each year on dairy processor grants to $400,000. These grants will help processing plants to grow, innovate and improve. This is one small way to invest in the future of dairy processing in Wisconsin. It is also another way to promote product innovation and the opening of potential new markets. We continue to think these grants are a good idea and the increased funding will allow DATCP to help more processors move forward with future plans.

Support adequate funding for the non-point program – The state’s non-point program sets the baseline standards for farms when it comes to nutrient management. The program has never been properly funded. More funding for this program promotes the fair application of rules for all farms. It should also help to address water quality concerns in some parts of the state. Every two years the budget contains money for county land and water staff and money to help farmers pay for conservation practices. We want to see these programs get a boost in funding to bring them closer to meeting the actual need for this type of assistance.

Support the current version of the Manufacturing and Ag Tax Credit
– Governor Evers has proposed capping the Manufacturing and Ag Tax Credit. We want to keep the tax credit program the way it is to provide maximum benefit to those who rely on it. Farmers and cheesemakers throughout Wisconsin use this tax credit. It is important for both groups in helping them cash flow during challenging economic times. Even though most of the users of this credit are not farms, farmers still benefit indirectly when their processor gets the credit and is more fiscally sound.

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