Agriculture is the backbone of Wisconsin's economy, and our family farms are at its core. A 2004 study reported that farming and food processing in Wisconsin generates more than $51.5 billion in economic activity and provides jobs for 420,000 people, or twelve percent of the state's workforce.
Today many family farmers are struggling. Too often they are caught between low commodity prices and the skyrocketing cost of health care and energy. Our agriculture policies must value Wisconsin farmers above foreign producers. Preserving our family farms, strengthening our rural economy and establishing a fair and balanced trade policy are essential.
I support agricultural policies that guarantee a safe, healthy, and adequate food supply for all Americans. Our farmers are the most efficient in the world, and the quality of their efforts is second to none. Each year I have the opportunity to sit down with the Wisconsin FFA and young families just starting to farm on their own or carrying on a family tradition. They are the future of American farming. As your representative in Congress, I work to ensure our nation's agricultural policies support them.
Research and scientific advancement allows today's farmers to be more productive, while protecting the environment. I am a strong supporter of agricultural research and have worked to secure federal funds to support that research. University of Wisconsin faculty are on the cutting edge of agricultural research, and the UW Extension is a critical resource for Wisconsinites. I am proud of the research that is done in our state, and pleased that as your representative I have been successful in providing federal assistance for those efforts, in addition to my other work to support agriculture.
I believe that U.S. trade representatives must pursue fair trade - not free trade - which means ensuring greater market access for American agricultural products abroad while protecting America's farm families. For example, I will continue to oppose the importation of foreign milk protein concentrate (MPC) and other dry milk derivatives.
Wisconsin diary farmers rely on the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program to supplement their income when milk prices fell below a regulated threshold. However, despite the dedicated efforts of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation, the 2002 Farm Bill only authorized MILC for three years, instead of five. The immediate problem was partially solved when a two year extension was secured, through August 30, 2007, but this does not ensure the program will be reauthorized in the 2007 Farm Bill. I assure my farming constituents that I will fight to protect MILC, as well as other commodity support, conservation, and nutrition programs, in the 2007 agriculture bill.
My work on behalf of Wisconsin Farmers include:
* Securing funds for the repair and modernization of the USDA Cereal Crops Research Unit, which is based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
* Securing funds for the Sand County Foundation (located in Dane County) to research and then test market-based voluntary solutions for farmers to improve water quality by reducing agricultural nitrogen runoff into Wisconsin waterways.
* Leading the effort in the House of Representatives demanding that the FDA prohibit the use of Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) in the making of standardized cheeses.
* Opposition to the Australian Free Trade Agreement which undermines Wisconsin dairy producers.
* Authored legislation that would improve bankruptcy protections for struggling family farmers to allow them to file for bankruptcy, repaying as much of their debts as they can afford, while continuing to farm.