Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by the Wisconsin Examiner.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and a group of Democratic lawmakers proposed on September 28 a legislative package that would spend $25 million on helping the state’s agricultural industry.
Evers announced the package at the World Dairy Expo in Madison alongside State Sen. Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska), State Rep. Dave Considine (D-Baraboo) and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Randy Romanski.
The group of bills, which have begun circulating for co-sponsorship, would spend money on creating stronger connections between farmers and local institutions such as schools, hospitals and food banks; increase access to mental health services and grow the state’s meat industry.
Evers said Republicans weren’t involved in drafting the bills. But agricultural groups said they support the proposals.
“This proposal builds on efforts made through the state budget process and provides critical support for initiatives that would bolster the local food movement, combat food insecurity, address rural mental health, and tackle labor shortages,” said Nick Levendofsky, Government Relations Director for the Wisconsin Farmers Union. “The package would be a pivotal investment in Wisconsin agriculture and our rural communities, and we wholeheartedly support it.”
The largest of the proposals would spend $20 million on grants to help food banks and nonprofits buy food from local farmers to distribute to families experiencing food insecurity. Another of the bills would spend $2.6 million on creating a “meat talent development program.” Through grants and tuition reimbursements, the program would financially support students in meat processing educational programs or training.
The bills also include providing an additional $400,000 to an already existing marketing campaign known as Something Special from Wisconsin. Businesses whose ingredients, supplies or activities can be at least 50% attributed to Wisconsin are eligible to join the campaign.
Other proposals are to spend $784,000 to provide regional mental health services to farmers and create a program that connects local food purchasers such as hospitals, businesses and universities with farmers in their area.