Gov. Evers announces budget proposals to help Wisconsin farmers

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers says his upcoming budget proposal will include more than $43 million for the state’s agriculture industry and farm families.

“Our agricultural industry is Wisconsin’s past and present, and it will be our future,” Gov. Evers said in a statement announcing the plan. “Our proud farming history is core to our state’s culture and people, and Wisconsin farmers have carried and supported our state economy for generations.”

The governor’s office says the proposal will aim to expand market opportunities for Wisconsin’s farms, support new and innovative farming practices, strengthen the agricultural workforce, connect local food producers to food banks and pantries and support farmer mental health and wellbeing.

“It’s time to join in this fight for Wisconsin’s farmers and their families and agricultural industries to ensure future economic prosperity our rural communities and our entire state,” Gov. Evers said in the statement.

Among the proposals being included in the governor’s budget plan:

  • Creating and funding the Wisconsin Initiative for Agricultural Exports
  • Increasing funding for the Dairy Processor Grant Program by $1.2 million over the biennium
  • Investing $20 million to help connect Wisconsin food banks and pantries with Wisconsin producers to provide food to families experiencing food insecurity
  • Funding the Farm-to-School Grant Program to get fresh, nutritious, locally-produced foods onto kids’ plates in school cafeterias across Wisconsin
  • Creating and funding the Farm-to-Fork program to build connections between farmers and nearby non-school entities interested in purchasing local food for their cafeterias
  • Increasing funding for the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program, a grant program that funds local food efforts to increase the sale of Wisconsin-produced agricultural products
  • Providing additional funding for Something Special from Wisconsin™, a branded marketing program available to businesses who can attribute at least 50 percent of their ingredients, production, or processing activities to Wisconsin
  • Creating and funding a Small Farm Diversity Grant Program designed to support producers adding new products, increasing production of an ag product where market opportunities exist, or starting a new farming operation entirely
  • Creating a Meat Processor Grant program to target the needs of the meat industry, incentivize innovation, and expand Wisconsin’s overall meat processing capacity
  • Creating and funding a Meat Talent Development Program to specifically target meat industry workforce development and help spur growth in Wisconsin’s meat processing industry
  • Adding additional Food Inspector Positions at DATCP to ensure a safe, secure food supply
  • Creating and funding a Value-Added Agricultural Grant Program, which would provide education and technical assistance related to producing value-added agricultural products, such as organic farming and best practices related to grazing
  • Providing additional funding to counties in order to support three conservation staff per county
  • Increasing funding for the Producer-Led Watershed Grant Program, which supports farmer groups working collaboratively to address local water issues
  • Creating and funding Water Stewardship Grants which provides support for third parties assisting farmers with water stewardship
  • Creating and funding a Conservation Grant Program which supports farmers seeking to transition to more environmentally sustainable agricultural practices
  • Providing funding in order to support additional UW-Extension specialists and county agents, who provide both on-the-ground technical assistance and research to support producers throughout Wisconsin.
  • Creating a new Regional Farmer Mental Health Program to help increase farmers’ access to mental health support services, coordinate local and regional peer support programs, and provide counseling and assistance to Wisconsin farmers
  • Providing ongoing funding for the Farmer Mental Health Assistance Program, which supports a 24/7 counseling service, tele-counseling sessions, counseling vouchers, and building farmer peer-support networks.

Evers is set to unveil his full 2021-2023 budget proposal in a statewide address on Tuesday, February 16th.