Keeping Wisconsin's Agriculture Strong
Expanding prosperity for our farmers and rural communities
Agriculture is an essential part of Wisconsin's way of life and our economy -- generating $59 billion in economic activity and supporting more than 400,000 jobs. With a committed partner in the governor's office, we can leverage Wisconsin's traditional strength in agriculture to increase diversity, profitability and innovation. Tom has developed a comprehensive and detailed plan -- highlighted below -- to keep Wisconsin agriculture at the cutting edge for farms of all sizes.
Making Wisconsin America's True Dairyland
Dairy and cheese processing make up $26.5 billion of the state's $59 billion agriculture industry. Wisconsin is second only to California in dairy production, and Tom's goal is to make Wisconsin #1 again. His plan to position Wisconsin as the nation's uncontested Milk State includes:
* Supporting enhanced tax credits for dairy and dairy processing facilities. With dairy prices and demand on the rebound, Wisconsin is poised for a strong comeback. The Dairy Investment Tax Credit, which expired this year, allows dairy farmers a 10% income and franchise tax credit for expenditures on modernization and expansion. Tom supported extending the Dairy Investment Tax Credit until 2012 to help our Dairy Farms to continue to grow.
* Increasing growth and profitability by balancing regulatory relief and environmental protection. Natural resource management and agriculture need not be at be at odds with one another. We can safeguard the environment while allowing our farming operations to grow and compete, preserving farmland for agricultural use, and protecting the sustainability of Wisconsin agribusiness.
* Promoting and protecting the integrity of Wisconsin's Organic Dairy Industry. Wisconsin's family farmers have faced enough challenges in recent years without the additional burden of competing with cheap counterfeits that have flooded the market. Tom will insist that the USDA enforce the "organic" law and level the playing field for Wisconsin farmers who are in compliance with U.S. organic standards.
* Establishing an annual operating loan program through WHEDA. The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Association could provide an additional $100,000 loan to eligible dairy farms, to be repaid over a five-year period.
Expanding Other Value-Added Agriculture
Growing commodity crops is an important part of farming, but there are also opportunities in growing turning raw agricultural products into a processed product that commands high prices and delivers higher incomes. To support this new agricultural environment, states can provide capital, technical assistance, and infrastructure support. As governor, Tom will build on existing programs to increase value-added agriculture in Wisconsin.
Energy Independence Through Agriculture
Biomass is Wisconsin's most promising source of renewable energy, producing power continuously and relying on a supply of agricultural inputs that Wisconsin family farms have abundant capacity to supply. Every year Wisconsin sends $16 billion in energy costs to other states and countries. It's time to keep those dollars here at home. Through loan programs and by promoting the commercialization of biofuels, Tom will grow our biomass energy economy, strengthening the links between agriculture and an energy-independent Wisconsin.
Restoring the Wisconsin Idea to Production Agriculture
The Wisconsin Idea is based on the principle that education must be used to influence and improve people's lives outside the classroom. As governor, Tom will ensure that the state's universities and UW-Extension are fully funded with a clear mandate to work directly with the state's farmers to continue to modernize our state's agricultural economy. Recognizing Wisconsin's dairy industry of the future is knowledge-based, he will revitalize the Babcock Institute for International Dairy Research and Development -- turning it into a full-fledged university department. Tom will also work to remodel the Babcock Hall facility to establish a state-of-the-art cheese making training facility.
Keeping Wisconsin's Rural Economy Competitive
As governor, Tom will improve the quality of life in Wisconsin's rural communities. His plan includes:
* Investing in local transportation systems
* Empowering rural schools as economic development catalysts
* Growing Wisconsin's critical tourism economy and expanding agritourism
* Increasing broadband connections and coverage in rural areas and schools
* Improving health care and dental care in rural communities
* Protecting use-value assessment to ensure that farmers are not taxed off of their land
Tom Barrett Owns a Long Record Fighting for Wisconsin's Agricultural Economy
* Tom earned praise for opposing legislation that "continues to devastate Wisconsin industries," including Wisconsin's agriculture and food processing industries. (The Capital Times, 8/27/09)
* Tom cosponsored a bill to establish a minimum milk price equal to the national price of milk to provide price relief to economically distressed milk producers. Tom Barrett also cosponsored a bill in 2001 that included plans to "revise and increase funding for the farmland protection program." (HR 224, 1997; HR 2375, 2001)
* Tom supported the Farm Security Act, investing $100 million in rural development programs (HR 2646, 1996, "Farm Security Act")
* Tom fought revisions the USDA wanted to make in the minimum prices bottlers and processors pay farmers for milk. The milk producers plan was pushed by farmers from outside the Midwest and would have hurt Wisconsin. (The Capital Times, 11/19/99)
To view Tom's full plan to get Wisconsin working, visit www.BarrettForWisconsin.com/Jobs.