After 10 ½ years on the board that oversees policy matters at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Dick Cates has decided to retire.
The trained agronomist, who is head of the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said it was "the hardest decision he's ever had to make" and said he had deep appreciation for the work that is done at DATCP.
Secretary Ben Brancel offered Cates a plaque in honor of his years on the board during a meeting in Madison Dec. 10.
It was the second time in as many months that Cates received an award during an ag board meeting. In November, he and his wife Kim, along with other Cates family members, were honored as this year's recipient of the Leopold Conservation Award.
That award, sponsored by the Sand County Foundation and Wisconsin Farm Bureau, honored the Cates family for conservation and preservation work on their Iowa County farm, where they produce grass-fed Angus and Jersey steers through a managed grazing system.
The award was created to honor landowner achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of land and natural resources.
As Cates prepared to leave the board this month, Secretary Brancel thanked Cates for his service to agriculture and to the department. "Individual members come onto this board and serve with esteem and you are one of those."
Cates told his fellow board members that he has found his experience on the board to be "life-changing and invigorating." Listening to and learning from the other members of the board has been something he has enjoyed, he said.
"We are so blessed in this state to discuss the things that are so important to agriculture. It has been a great honor to serve on the board," he added.
Cates thanked former board chairman Mike Dummer and current board chairman Andy Diercks for their leadership. Those two are now the longest-serving members of the board.
Three new board members were just added this year, including Nicole Hanson, Dennis Badtke and Dean Strauss. Long-time board member Margaret Krome left the board earlier this year. Board members are appointed by the governor.
Cates left the ag board in anticipation of a run for the state Assembly. The Spring Green farmer has filed the necessary papers to run in a race for his local Assembly seat.