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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers recently released his 2021-2023 biennial budget proposal. It includes a proposal for investing more than $43 million in Wisconsin's agricultural economy and farm families. The budget proposal targets several areas.

  • expanding market opportunities
  • supporting new and innovative farming practices
  • strengthening the agricultural workforce
  • connecting local producers to food banks and pantries
  • supporting farmer mental health and wellbeing

“Wisconsin farmers have carried and supported our state economy for generations,” Evers said. “Long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and then throughout this pandemic, our farmers and producers were fighting every day to save their farms and to save their industry while helping us put food on our tables. It’s time to join in this fight for Wisconsin’s farmers and their families and agricultural industries to ensure future economic prosperity for our rural communities and our entire state.”

The budget proposal builds on investments from the 2019-2021 biennial budget. It outlines investments for several programs and grants.

Local, international market opportunities expanded

  • Create and fund a Wisconsin Initiative for Agricultural Exports to boost export opportunities for the state’s agricultural products.
  • Increase funding for the Dairy Processor Grant Program by $1.2 million during the biennium to support innovation, jobs and the competitiveness of Wisconsin’s dairy industry.
  • Invest $20 million to connect Wisconsin food banks and pantries with producers to provide food to families experiencing food insecurity.
  • Fund the Farm-to-School Grant Program to provide fresh, nutritious and locally produced foods to school cafeterias across Wisconsin.
  • Create and fund a Farm-to-Fork program to build connections between farmers and non-school entities interested in purchasing local food for cafeterias.
  • Increase funding for the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program, which funds local-food efforts to increase the sale of agricultural products.
  • Provide additional funding for Something Special from Wisconsin, a branded marketing program available to businesses that attribute at least 50 percent of ingredients, production or processing activities to Wisconsin.
  • Create and fund a Small Farm Diversity Grant Program designed to support producers adding new products, increasing production of an agricultural product where market opportunities exist or starting a new farming operation.

Plan bolsters local meat processing

  • Create a Meat Processor Grant program to target the needs of the meat industry, incentivize innovation and expand Wisconsin’s overall meat-processing capacity.
  • Create and fund a Meat Talent Development Program to target meat-industry workforce development and help spur growth in Wisconsin’s meat-processing industry.
  • Add food inspectors at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to ensure a safe and secure food supply.

Promote agricultural innovation, conservation

  • Create and fund a Value-Added Agricultural Grant Program to provide education and technical assistance related to producing value-added agricultural products, such as organic farming and best-grazing practices.
  • Provide additional funding to counties to support three conservation staff members per county.
  • Increase funding for the Producer-Led Watershed Grant Program to support farmer groups working collaboratively to address local water-quality issues.
  • Create and fund Water Stewardship Grants to provide support for third parties assisting farmers with water stewardship.
  • Create and fund a Conservation Grant Program to support farmers seeking to transition to more-environmentally sustainable agricultural practices.
  • Provide funding to support additional University of Wisconsin-Division of Extension specialists and county agents who provide both technical assistance and research to support producers.

Support farmer mental health

  • Create a Regional Farmer Mental Health Program to increase farmer access to mental-health support services, coordinate local and regional peer-support programs, and provide counseling and assistance to Wisconsin farmers.
  • Provide ongoing funding for the Farmer Mental Health Assistance Program, which supports a 24-7 counseling service, tele-counseling sessions and counseling vouchers; build farmer peer-support networks.

Visit doa.wi.gov and search for "State of Wisconsin 2021-23 Executive Budget" for more information. 

This article originally ran on agupdate.com.

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