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Walker talks to DBA about priorities for coming year

Nov. 29, 2012 | 0 comments


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was given the Dairy Business Association’s (DBA) Leadership Award this week, in the words of DBA President Jerry Meisner, "for his commitment to growing and strengthening the state’s dairy industry."

The award ceremony came as the DBA opened its annual meeting in Madison on Tuesday (Nov. 27) and was just before Walker gave a speech to the gathering of dairy farmers and representatives of allied industries.

Walker said he was excited to be at the meeting and appreciated the award, but wanted to tell DBA members that he "wants to make it easier for you to create more jobs."

The dairy industry, said the governor, has a $26.5 billion economic impact in the state – part of a $60 billion impact from all of agriculture.

The state’s 12,100 dairy farms and 1.3 million dairy cows produce 26.1 billion pounds of milk that is used to make 2.6 billion pounds of cheese – one quarter of all the cheese produced in Wisconsin.

"Still, we know we need to do more," he said. "We’re still at a point where 10 percent of the milk used for our state’s cheese production comes from out of state."

There’s a growing demand for food and the quality cheese that is produced in Wisconsin which is why he proposed the 30x20 program, an effort to get the state producing 30 billion pounds of milk by the year 2020.

"It’s not just about an industry or an economy, though, it’s also about family. It’s also about a way of life."

His efforts to reform government, said Walker, will get government "out of the way" and make it easier to farm and run other businesses in the state.

"We will continue to do things that make it easier to do business in Wisconsin."

The regulatory climate is under control at the moment, he added, "but we will look at if there is more we can do."

Regulations need to be common sense, based on science and predictable, he said, a statement that drew applause from the audience.

Saying the state needs "to be more aggressive," Walker said he was looking for ways to make it easier to farm and to produce milk in the state. "We think that’s incredibly important."


Walker praised the teamwork in his cabinet, specifically naming Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Ben Brancel and Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp for their work.

If dairy farms prosper it will increase jobs on farms, in dairies and in cheese making, he said. Farmers can help in the development of the workforce.

Walker said he hears constantly that industries don’t have people for the jobs in their business, so he is proposing to "transform education."

As the father of teenagers, Walker said he questions the idea that everybody needs a four-year college degree to move on in life.

"A lot of kids don’t know what they want to do and are pushed toward college."

Walker said he wants to get feedback on K-12 education in the state, technical colleges as well as the University of Wisconsin system.

He wants to pay for performance and "measure the accountability of schools" and then tie funding to that. Walker told the dairy group that he wants to tie new money to technical colleges if they can train and place workers in critical areas of need.

He is looking at the possibility of tying education to workforce development on a region-by-region basis. The educational programs at technical colleges could be tied into the needs of local regions.

Walker said he wants to get the most out of budget dollars.

Asked by a farmer about citizen opposition to a proposed large dairy in Wood County, Walker said, "It’s hard for us to say we want to encourage jobs and then put up barriers – whether it’s dairy farms or frac sand mining."


Talking with reporters after his speech, Walker said in the upcoming budget proposal DATCP will be "in pretty good shape.

"They came in with a solid budget proposal."

The state isn’t looking at the massive budget cuts it made in the last budget cycle two years ago, because it has gotten it under control, he said. Instead of facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, the state starts the new budget cycle with a surplus.

"We won’t be in a position where we need a budget repair bill and we want to focus this time on workforce development."

There will be some Democrats who will vote with his fellow Republicans on these endeavors, he said, and that will "restore some of the confidence of the public."

Walker also said he wants to get iron ore mining started in the state’s northern region.

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