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Rep. Gallagher sees farmer enthusiasm for implementing conservation practices

Dan Hansen
Correspondent
Eighth District Rep. Mike Gallagher, left, and brothers Scott and Todd Brandenburg, helped showcase conservation efforts on Brand Acres beef farm.

GREENLEAF – Farmers in Northeastern Wisconsin are playing a leading role in efforts to promote and implement conservation practices that reduce phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment flowing into the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Eighth District Rep. Mike Gallagher has hosted a series of Save the Bay Farm Field Days to showcase conservation practices that are currently taking place on many area farms.

During a recent field day on Brand Acres pasture-based beef farm owned and operated by Scott Brandenburg, Wisconsin State Farmer spoke with Rep. Gallagher about farm conservation, and other issues related to Wisconsin agriculture.

“I’m seeing an enthusiasm among farmers to utilize conservation practices on their farms,” he said. “We see examples like the Brandenburgs, with 60 cows, who are demonstrating that these innovative conservation practice can work for them. They can save time, and save money and receive some economic incentives.

“I think the more the word gets out about the success these farmers are having, and the more we support conservation with GLRI (Great Lakes Restoration Initiative) funds, the more farmers we’ll see get involved in these programs,” Gallagher predicted.

Future plans include having similar demonstration farms in Oconto and Marinette counties. 

“That will build on the progress we’ve seen on the lower Fox River,” Gallagher said. “I think we really have an opportunity in Northeast Wisconsin to lead, and show that farmers don’t have to choose between doing very well economically versus environmentally doing very well. The two things can go hand in hand. I’m really encouraged by the progress we’ve made so far and by what lies ahead.”

CARES Act response

Gallagher also was asked if he thought the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act that was designed to provide some economic relief to those affected by the pandemic, was beneficial to Wisconsin farmers.

“There was some confusion initially about whether farmers would qualify for PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans or economic impact payments,” he acknowledged, “but we did as much as possible to make sure that farmers do have access to those programs.”

Gallagher was among those encouraging USDA to buy some of the excess cheese that was out there and distribute it to food banks around the country.

“That had a positive impact. But at the end of the day, what will help Wisconsin farmers most is quickly and responsibly opening restaurants and other businesses so that we can get the whole economy moving, of which ag is a huge part. Anytime the supply chain gets disrupted, it hurts everybody,” he stressed.

“The good news is that hospitals feel increasingly confident about their ability to weather even a surge of cases here or there. But we need to get back to work, we need to get kids back in school. That will help everybody.”

Recently Gallagher also led members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation – including Reps. Ron Kind (WI-03), Glenn Grothman (WI-06), and Tom Tiffany (WI-07) – in calling on the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Sonny Perdue, and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, to reconsider dietary guidelines that prohibit full-fat dairy products from being included in federal programs, such as school lunch programs.

The lawmakers wrote: "Full-fat dairy products provide a nutrient-dense complete source of protein full of healthy fats our bodies need to promote a healthy weight and fend off chronic disease. Updating the policies on saturated fats and full-fat dairy products will not only benefit recipients of government feeding programs, including our children in schools across the country, but also our nation’s dairy farmers and the rural economies they support by providing the potential to increase domestic demand for the healthy, wholesome milk they produce.”

Conservation legislation

Gallagher also believes the Great American Outdoors Act – a far-reaching conservation bill that was recently passed by the House and Senate, and signed into law by President Trump – will help Wisconsin farmers and the entire state.

The act allocates $900 million each year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund while also providing up to $9.5 billion over five years to begin clearing up a mounting maintenance backlog at national parks.

“Something as simple as putting the Land and Water Conservation Fund on a permanent funding path will eliminate a lot of uncertainty, and we’ll see many of those dollar come to Wisconsin,” he said. 

“Enacting this legislation also sends a signal that it's important for us to maintain the natural beauty of this country, and it’s important for a state like ours where we have so many hunters, anglers and others who understand that we need to protect these natural resources. I think that’s a really big step forward for Wisconsin,” he said.