COLUMNISTS

Wisconsin’s economy needs farmers

Gov. Tony Evers
Gov. Tony Evers visited High-Gem Holsteins and Normandes on June 7. During his visit, the governor heard from owners Chris and Brenda Conley about the farm’s involvement in their local watershed group.

Wisconsin farmers are the backbone of our state, home to more than 64,000 farms on 14.2 million acres of land. Agriculture, including our dairy and cranberry industries, is vital to our economy, generating over $100 billion for our state every year. And one in nine Wisconsin jobs are in an agriculture-related field. That’s why my administration is working to give Wisconsin farmers the tools they need to succeed.

Over the years, with trade wars and supply chain issues, Wisconsin farms have been through a lot. During my first term, to address some of the issues, as part of the Farmer Support Program, I allocated $100 million to over 20,000 farmers across Wisconsin’s 72 counties. This support is helping farmers pay bills, invest in equipment, and continue feeding and fueling Wisconsin.

I believe it is also important that Wisconsin is moving forward and keeping up with 21st century advancements, whether that is expanding Wisconsin’s internet or repairing roads. During my first term, my investments have led to affordable and accessible high-speed internet to over 387,000 new farms, homes, and businesses. I plan to expand access to an additional 300,000 homes and businesses in my next term.

Additionally, we have repaired over 1,700 miles of road and nearly 1,300 bridges to make sure rural Wisconsin is connected to the rest of the state like never before.

In my latest budget, I was proud to support programs like the Wisconsin Initiative for Agriculture Exports, which aims to boost our state’s agricultural exports; grants for our dairy processors; and a new program to grow the state’s meat processing industry. I also directed an additional $10 million from the American Rescue Plan for meat and poultry processors that can help them grow their businesses, and started a $5 million grant program to help meat processors find new workers and fill much-needed jobs.

These investments are helping create new markets for Wisconsin farmers and our agriculture products — and it’s already paying off. Five meat processors, from Viroqua to Luxemburg, already received the first round of funding from the meat processor grant program, which will help them improve and expand their operations.

I believe agriculture is key to the success of rural areas of our state, and when rural Wisconsin prospers, our whole state benefits — that’s why I created the Office of Rural Prosperity. This office provides Wisconsinites with ways to navigate state programs and brings rural leaders together to solve issues. I also created the Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity that would provide additional resources to rural communities.

It is more important than ever to be supporting rural Wisconsin, the agriculture industry, and our farmers. From feeding our families to bringing huge economic benefits to our state, our farmers have always had our backs, so we’ve got to have theirs. I am committed to continuing to invest in and uplift our agricultural producers and our rural communities — our state depends on it.