As you know, right now our farm and rural communities are dealing with a drought that will undoubtedly go down in the history books.
Despite the enormous challenges brought about by Mother Nature this summer, the attitude and outlook continues to be positive thanks to the resilient spirit of Wisconsin citizens, support from the agricultural industry, and a unified response from our partners.
I don't need to tell you the impact of our recent weather goes well beyond crop damage.
One of the major concerns right now is providing adequate feed for the dairy herd.
I'm concerned that dairy farmers may send their herds to slaughter or sell them off, due to a shortage of feed. If this happens, it would have a ripple effect on Wisconsin's dairy producers, manufacturing industry, and, ultimately, the export market for many years.
On Friday, I traveled to Heartland Farms, Inc. in Hancock. With their extensive irrigation equipment, Dick Pavelski and his family grew a quality crop of vegetables this season despite the lack of rain.
Normally, Heartland Farms would leave its fields dormant for months until it began to work the soil this fall for next year's crop. Not this year.
This year, Dick and his team are going to plant another crop to grow additional forages for other Wisconsin farmers who need livestock feed.
Heartland Farms is not alone. The Wisconsin Potato Association & Vegetable Growers Association is rallying its members to make tens of thousands of acres available to plant forages for harvest yet this fall.
While it is a sacrifice on their part to leverage their land, staff and equipment in this way, they are willing to do it to support other Wisconsin farmers.
These are just two examples of Wisconsinites joining together to help fellow residents through a tough time. Wisconsin is a great place to start a family, establish a business and, hopefully, someday retire in, because the people in our state continually come together in times of crises.
We are working hard to be a partner at the state level.
The first thing we did was declare a drought across the entire state, which expedited the permitting process for farmers who need to utilize additional water sources for irrigation.
Then, we increased weight limits for hauling hay - making it easier for dairy farmers to obtain feed for their herds.
The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority is now accepting applications for the Drought Relief Program, which lowers interest payments for drought affected farms.
We also opened up 11,500 acres of state managed land so farmers can harvest its hay.
Most importantly, we've created a Farmer-to-Farmer Network, which connects buyers and sellers for different types of forages. The network is run through the University of Wisconsin-Extension and can be accessed at http://farmertofarmer.uwex.edu/.
I encourage farmers less affected by the dry conditions to plant a second crop for forage after harvesting their primary crop and post the yield on the Farmer-to-Farmer network. Farmers in need of forage can search the site right now and see what hay, alfalfa haylage, corn silage, or high moisture corn is currently available.
We can't make it rain, but we can provide support and help farmers find resources to help them manage their operations through this drought emergency. Visit www.ready.wi.gov
for a one-stop shop of drought resources and links.
As your governor, one of my most important duties is ensuring our state government serves the residents proud to call Wisconsin home. If there are any additional suggestions on what we can do to minimize the long-term economic damage caused by the drought, please contact my office directly.
I'd be happy to consider taking additional measures to move our state's economy and agricultural industry forward.
Moving forward, I plan on reviewing our state's response to this drought. While we must continue to manage the current situation, we will emerge from this crisis stronger and even better prepared in the future.