WCMA Notes: Dairy and the Evers Administration

Posted By: John Umhoefer WCMA News,

This week, Wisconsin welcomed a new governor and state leadership in key roles. What will Gov. Tony Evers mean for Wisconsin’s dairy industry?

Agriculture was not the key focus in the governor’s race, but since the November election, Gov. Evers has noted his belief in investment in rural communities, including education, transportation and broadband access. He expressed interest in supporting and expanding the dairy industry, while protecting Wisconsin’s natural resources.

And his first job was with a cheese converter in Plymouth.

A look at new leadership in state agencies can further define the governor’s agriculture priorities.

Wisconsin DNR

Preston Cole, Gov. Evers’ selection for Secretary of Natural Resources in Wisconsin, has called for a renewed emphasis on science and research for the 2,500-employee state agency.

In 2007, Governor Jim Doyle appoint Cole to the state Natural Resources Board, the citizen board which reviews and advances regulations for approval by the state legislature.  Governor Scott Walker reappointed Cole in 2013, giving Cole – now chairman of the board – 12 years of experience in the workings of the agency.

Cole grew up in Benton Harbor, MI, and participated in Future Farmers of America. He earned a degree in forest management and worked as a forester in the Missouri Department of Conservation before moving to Milwaukee in 1991.  He reached the role of city forester in 1998 and entered the Department of Public Works in 2003. 

Interestingly, both sides of Wisconsin’s political spectrum, from environmental advocate and former DNR Secretary George Meyer on the left to Governor Scott Walker on the right have praised the work of Cole and his selection as DNR chief.

What can the dairy industry expect from Secretary Cole? The incoming Secretary’s call for renewed fund for scientists within DNR and research-driven policy aligns with WCMA’s expectations that regulations be based in sound data and uniform application.  In initial conversations with WCMA staff, Cole has acknowledged the need to balance environmental and dairy interests in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture

Brad Pfaff, Gov. Evers’ selection to head the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection, brings strong policy and government experience to the role of Secretary. His highest profile position has been leadership of USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Wisconsin during the Obama Administration.  Before taking USDA’s top government post in the state in 2009, Pfaff worked for U.S. Rep. Ron Kind in western Wisconsin.

Rep. Kind noted recently “Brad Pfaff has dedicated his life to ensuring Wisconsin’s farmers, workers and families have the resources and tools they need to succeed.” Pfaff returned to Kind’s office in 2017 before being tapped by Gov. Evers to lead state agriculture programs.

Born on a Wisconsin dairy farm in Mindoro, Pfaff will enter his role with extensive knowledge of dairy programs, but also the struggles dairy farms have faced with product prices, labor and regulation.

Budget Priorities

Gov. Evers has the immediate opportunity to present a two-year budget to the state legislature this winter.  WCMA has reached out to the Evers Administration seeking reasonable, tangible improvements for dairy manufacturers, including:

  • Support for a member proposal, now being considered by a state dairy task force, to increase access to capital for rural dairy plant development.
  • Additional staff at University of Wisconsin River Falls to lead operations and training at the new dairy pilot plant funded by state dairy processors and suppliers.
  • Support for continuing Wisconsin’s Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit.
  • Added funds for WDATCP sanitarians to bring this inspection program back to full strength. And adequate funding for the wastewater program at Wisconsin DNR.
  • Support for increased revenue, including a higher fuel tax or registration fees, to improve roads in Wisconsin and keep farm milk and finished dairy products moving.
  • Additional positions in state government to support dairy and food exports.
  • Added funds for an existing state dairy processing grant program to spur new production capacity.

Dairy is Wisconsin’s single largest business sector – the economic engine that drives rural communities throughout the state – and WCMA looks forward to strengthening our industry and our communities under the new Evers Administration.