A legislative package announced last week at the World Dairy Expo addresses some key priorities the Wisconsin Farmers Union championed on Capitol Hill.
“This proposal builds on efforts made through the state budget process and provides essential support to initiatives that would strengthen the local food movement, tackle food insecurity, tackle rural mental health and tackle labor shortages, ”said Nick Levendofsky, WFU director of government relations. “The package would be a vital investment in Wisconsin agriculture and our rural communities, and we support it wholeheartedly.”
The bill was announced by Governor Tony Evers, alongside Senator Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska), State Representative Dave Considine (D-Baraboo) and Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Commerce and Wisconsin Consumer Protection Randy Romanski earlier today in Madison.
“As someone who advocates for farmers and helps lead community efforts to feed the hungry, I can say that this legislative package is a win-win solution for everyone,” said WBU Executive Director , Julie Keown-Bomar, who also sits on the Board of Directors of Feed. My People, a food bank that serves 14 counties in northwestern Wisconsin. “Farm-to-table boxes of food provide income for farmers in times of uncertainty and help financially struggling families access healthy food. The more we can put healthy, locally grown farm-fresh food into the hands of the families who need and appreciate it, the better.
Brittany Olson, Barron County Farmers Union member, dairy farmer and mental health advocate, expressed appreciation for a regional farmer mental health program included in the legislation. “Barriers to finding mental health care include distance and finding a mental health professional who understands agriculture,” Olson said. “I hope that implementing such a program at a more local level than the nearest large city alleviates these barriers and gives farmers and their families the help they need when they are in difficulty. . “
Chippewa County Farmers Union president and beef farmer Danielle Endvick welcomed plans to include funding to boost meat processing in the state. “Direct marketing shows real potential for beginning farmers to get a stable and reliable price for their meats, but the lack of processing capacity in areas of the state remains a stumbling block,” Endvick said. “The proposed investment in workforce development for the meat industry is a promising step forward for farmers and meat processors who are facing this labor shortage. “
According to the governor’s office, the package presented today includes:
LRB-4244: Invests $ 20 million to help connect Wisconsin food banks and pantries with Wisconsin producers to provide food to food insecure families.
- These grants will help food banks and other nonprofits purchase Wisconsin food items for distribution to food insecure people.
- This investment will strengthen Wisconsin’s food supply chain by strengthening local markets, from producers and processors to food banks and consumers.
LRB-2865: Creates a Meat Talent Development Program, which provides more than $ 2.6 million in grants to specifically target the development of the meat industry’s workforce and help stimulate the growth of Wisconsin’s meat processing industry.
- This program provides financial support to students enrolled in an educational or training program on Wisconsin meat processing.
- This bill would allow the DATCP to provide grants to universities, colleges and technical colleges to reimburse the tuition fees of students enrolled in a meat processing program.
- Each tuition reimbursement covers up to 80 percent of the tuition fees to enroll in a meat processing program, with a maximum reimbursement of $ 7,500.
LRB-4243: Provides additional funding for Something Special from Wisconsin ™, a brand marketing program available to companies that can allocate at least 50 percent of their ingredients, production, or processing activities to Wisconsin.
- The bill creates a new continuing credit and provides $ 400,000 in fiscal year 2021-2022 from the general fund to support efforts to strengthen the marketing of products made in Wisconsin.
LRB-2867: Creates 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 advice and assistance to Wisconsin farmers .
- This bill provides for a biennial investment of $ 784,000 and additional posts of 5.0 GPR to serve as regional agricultural support officers within the DATCP Agricultural Center and increases funding for these posts.
- The creation of a new regional farmer mental health program would increase farmers’ access to mental health support services, strengthen coordinated local and regional peer support programs, and improve advice and assistance to farmers in the region. Wisconsin.
LRB-4328: Provides funding for the Farm to School program to get fresh, nutritious, and locally produced food on children’s plates in Wisconsin school cafeterias. He is also creating the Farm to Fork program to connect farmers and businesses, hospitals and higher education institutions interested in purchasing local foods for their cafeterias.
- This bill creates the farm-to-fork program, providing $ 553,300 during the biennium, to connect entities that have cafeterias but are not school districts with neighboring farms to provide food locally produced in meals and snacks, to help the public develop healthy eating habits, to provide nutrition and agricultural education, and to improve farmers’ incomes and direct access to markets.
- The bill also provides additional funding of $ 400,000 during the biennium for the DATCP to provide grants for the creation and expansion of farm-to-school programs and requires that by providing Grants Under farm-to-school programs, the DATCP should give preference to school districts that have a high percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced meals under federal law.
“The Wisconsin Farmers Union looks forward to working with other agriculture, rural, and food and hunger groups across the state, as well as members of the Wisconsin Legislature, to address these priorities over the years. weeks and months to come, ”Levendofsky said.