New Ag-Roads Improvement Program gains support

Sen. Howard Marklein

Representative Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) and I recently circulated a bill for co-sponsors to create a new road funding program that is focused on Ag-Roads.  We have named it the Ag Road Improvement Program (ARIP).

Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Travis Tranel recently circulated a bill for co-sponsors to create a new road funding program that is focused on Ag-Roads.

Deteriorating Class B and weight-restricted roads throughout Wisconsin restrict the ability of farmers to move full truckloads of goods off the farm to processors and to market. These bad roads also limit their ability to receive large shipments of feed and other items efficiently.  As a result, farmers, suppliers, and transport companies have to take half loads or miles-long detours to be in compliance with weight restrictions. This increases costs for farmers and suppliers and causes bottlenecks in the food supply system.

Rep. Tranel and I are proposing the creation of ARIP, which is modeled after the very successful Local Road Improvement Program (LRIP), which provides road funding to other local, rural roads. We propose to fund ARIP with $150 million in one-time money in a new continuing appropriation.We propose that the ARIP will be 100% state funded which means that no local match is required to do ARIP projects. These roads are the most rural in the state. Towns often do not have the resources to provide the necessary match to access existing funding programs. The goal of this program is to make it as easy as possible for towns to access the money. The funding in ARIP will be targeted to the first-mile of roads and bridges that farmers use every day. Specifically, funding will go toward repairing Class B and weight-restricted roads that provide access to farms and agricultural lands. Repairs to bridges and culverts on these roads are also eligible for funding. After project completion, the road will no longer be a Class B or weight-restricted road. Projects will be selected by a committee made up of local government officials and members of the ag community, just like the current LRIP selection process. The bill includes prioritization criteria to ensure money is used most effectively. We prioritize projects that increase access to the largest number of farmers, are located on the oldest roads, lead to the largest reduction in deferred or repeated trips, have the greatest economic impact, target roads where the only feasible access to a farm is a single road, and provide funding to towns that cannot otherwise afford to maintain or repair these roads. There are ag-roads all over Wisconsin that need this funding. I am optimistic that my colleagues in the legislature will recognize the value of this idea and support our work to improve access to and from farms throughout the state. This bill is supported by the Wisconsin Ag-Coalition, which includes: AgCountry Farm Credit Services; Agricultural Retailers Assoc.; Compeer Financial Services Cooperative Network; CropLife America; Dairy Business Assoc.; GreenStone Farm Credit Services; Midwest Food Products Assoc.; Wisconsin Agri-Business Assoc.; Wisconsin Assoc. of Professional Agricultural Consultants; Wisconsin BioFuels Assoc.; Wisconsin Biomass Energy Assoc.; Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Assoc.; Wisconsin Cheese Makers Assoc.; Wisconsin Corn Growers Assoc.; Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation; Wisconsin Pork Assoc.; Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Assoc.; Wisconsin Soybean Assoc.; Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Assoc.; Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Assoc.. The proposed legislation has further gained support from the Wisconsin Milk Haulers Assoc.. I am proud to work on behalf of all of the farmers, producers, processors and others in the ag supply chain who work so hard to provide goods and services for Wisconsin’s ag economy.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this idea forward.