FB: Budget proposal is good for WI farm families

Jim Holte
Jim Holte

MADISON – Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President Jim Holte issued the following statement regarding Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal.

“Governor Walker’s budget proposal is good for Wisconsin’s farm families and the $88 billion in economic activity that agriculture produces. This is the first step in the process before the Governor signs the budget bill into law but we’re pleased with his announcements.

Continuing with an initiative Governor Walker created in the last budget to help improve water quality, supported by farmers and environmentalists alike, he is allocating $500,000 to the producer-led watershed grant program. Along with other important non-point pollution initiatives, I’m happy to see the Governor committed to this program’s success.

In addition to his support of the producer-led watershed grant program, Governor Walker increases funding for farmers to implement conservation practices. More specifically he will increase nutrient management funding by $1.6 million and direct $7 million in bonding to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to install long-term conservation practices. The Governor is proposing four Department of Natural Resources staff positions be moved to the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) program to more effectively issue and enforce permits. He will also ask DNR and DATCP to conduct a feasibility study to transfer the CAFO permitting program from DNR to DATCP.

Farmers throughout the state remain concerned about finding a long-term, sustainable solution to the state’s transportation funding crisis. A significant increase in local road and bridge aids has been a priority of ours for some time now. We are pleased the Governor has made a step in that direction. A recent DOT audit of the state highway program illustrated that reforms can be made to vastly improve how we best utilize our transportation dollars in the most efficient and effective way possible, but it’s likely that even the suggested reforms by the audit will still fall short to adequately fund our deteriorating highway system.

We support the Governor’s proposals to invest in rural schools by increasing sparsity aid and high-cost transportation aids, increase per pupil aids, provide flexibility to school districts when it comes to shared services, and increase broadband funding by $35 million for schools, libraries and rural residents.

Governor Walker’s budget proposal has two key provisions that will improve existing programs at DATCP. For years, the fee-based agrichemical management (ACM) fund and the agricultural chemical cleanup program (ACCP) fund have produced excess revenues only to be raided to fund other state programs. The budget proposal reduces fees for both ACM and ACCP to be in line with program expenditures.

Farm Bureau looks forward to working with state legislators as they deliberate on the 2017-19 biennial budget.”

Holte is the president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation