Gov. Scott Walker taps WI Sen. Sheila Harsdorf as agriculture secretary

Wisconsin State Farmer
State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf   (R--River Falls).

MADISON – State farm groups are applauding Governor Scott Walker’s decision to appoint State Senator Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls,as secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

Harsdorf will become the first woman in the agency’s 88-year history to serve as its secretary.

“Sheila’s experience as a highly-respected, dedicated legislator and dairy farmer make her an excellent fit to lead DATCP,” said Governor Walker. “I thank Sheila for her hard work and willingness to continue serving the public, and I look forward to working with her to keep Wisconsin moving forward.”

Praise from farm groups

Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President Jim Holte praised Gov. Walker’s appointment, and said Harsdorf will be an outstanding advocate for Wisconsin agriculture.

Jim Holte

“Sheila understands the diversity and strength in the state’s $88.3 billion agricultural economy,” Holte said. “Wisconsin farmers are in good hands with Sheila at the helm of this important agency. She has served as a consistent voice for agriculture in her tenure in the legislature.”

Holte noted that Harsdorf has worked diligently with her colleagues on the state’s right to farm and use value assessment of farmland laws.

“These two pieces of landmark legislation remain critical to the future of agriculture in Wisconsin,” Holte said. “She has been very supportive of conservation programs, specifically the producer-led watershed initiatives, funding for nonpoint source cost sharing and county land conservation staff.”

As a former Wisconsin Farm Bureau Discussion Meet winner and a Pierce County Farm Bureau board member, Holte said Harsdorf understands Farm Bureau and the needs of Wisconsin farmers.

Mike North

Mike North, president of the Dairy Business Association says Harsdorf’s background in agriculture, including as a dairy farmer, will serve DATCP and farmers and all Wisconsin residents well.

“Harsdorf has demonstrated leadership on agricultural issues during her time in the Legislature and understands the challenges facing our dairy farmers and processors,” North said. “Her commitment to finding solutions, with input from those directly affected, will help keep our dairy state strong.

We stand ready to be a collaborative partner with DATCP and other stakeholders who see the value of a successful dairy community and state,” he added.

Harsdorf, 61, has represented the Wisconsin State Senate’s 10th District since 2001 and served in leadership roles including majority caucus chair, chair of the Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges, as a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, and as a member of the Committee on Agriculture, Small Business, and Tourism.

She previously represented the 30th Assembly District in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1989-1998. She holds a degree in Animal Science from the University of Minnesota.

“I am honored to serve as DATCP secretary, and I thank Governor Walker for entrusting me to lead,” said Harsdorf. “I’m excited to work with and support our farmers, businesses, and consumers to promote a fair marketplace and economic growth in Wisconsin’s vibrant agriculture industry.”

In her hometown of River Falls, Sheila remains an active member of Luther Memorial Church. She is former president of Wisconsin FFA Foundation Sponsor’s Board. Harsdorf's brother, Jim, held the post from 2001 to 2003 under GOP Gov. Scott McCallum.

Harsdorf’s resignation from the State Senate was effective Friday, November 10, 2017. She will officially begin her new position on Monday, November 13, 2017 

The appointment would open up a special election for Harsdorf's seat, which covers parts of Burnett, Polk, St. Croix and Pierce counties in western Wisconsin.

Deputy secretary

Harsdorf wasted no time in her new position, announcing Keeley Moll as her Deputy Secretary on Nov. 13. In this role, Moll will handle internal operations of the agency.

Keeley Moll

“I am pleased Keeley has accepted the position of DATCP’s Deputy Secretary. I know many within the department, legislature and agricultural industry recognize and respect the work Keeley has done throughout her career,” said Harsdorf. “Her in-depth knowledge of the agency’s responsibilities and policies will make her invaluable to our continued success at DATCP.”

Moll served as the agency’s legislative and policy advisor since 1997. While in this position, she was part of major policy efforts including farmland preservation, Do Not Call, livestock siting and animal health.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to serve as DATCP’s Deputy Secretary,” said Moll. “I look forward to working with Secretary Harsdorf and agency staff to continue the great work already being done, responding to the needs of Wisconsin’s consumers, businesses and agricultural industry.”

Prior to her work at DATCP, Moll was a staff member for then Representative Ben Brancel in the State Capitol. She completed policy work for Brancel when he served as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance and Assembly Speaker.

Moll earned her degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She resides in rural Poynette with her husband, Tim, and two sons.

Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this story.