Ag Day at the Capitol brought over 300 farmers together in Madison on Wednesday, March 20. Fifteen members from Green Lake County Farm Bureau attended this year’s event. It started around 11:30 a.m. with a panel discussing the governor’s budget proposal to raise the gas tax 8 cents per gallon. Wisconsin DOT Secretary-Designee Craig Thompson explained the conditions of state, county and town roads. He said Wisconsin roads rated poorly on the road roughness rating compared to surrounding states. He went on explaining that the proposed raising of gas tax was low compared to the proposed 20 cent and 45 cent increase for Minnesota and Michigan, respectively.
Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-Designee, Brad Pfaff followed and explained that DATCP is here to help farmers in any way possible. He was raised on a small dairy farm in La Crosse county and understands how tough farming has been the last few years. He discussed all the issues facing dairy farmers. Water and hemp were also important issues as well as current crop prices.
We also heard from various speakers discussing items to talk about with our legislators. More local road funding could provide a 10 percent increase in mileage aid payment to assist local governments in maintaining Wisconsin roads. Our county and town roads are in tough shape. We have not been repairing them fast enough, and it’s going to take years to get them redone. The roads are vital to our farmers and rural residents. I have heard that in the town of Metomen in Fond Du Lac County, they are thinking of just grinding up a 1 mile stretch of road returning it to gravel. That is not what we want in Green Lake County.
We also heard about an initiative for Wisconsin dairy exports, to help build Wisconsin’s dairy brand in international markets. This would bring buyers in from foreign countries to get to know our world class dairy products.
Another item talked about was the UW Dairy Innovation Hub. The Innovation Hub, would help Wisconsin to gather talent and technology to find solutions for the future of the dairy industry. There are four areas of focus: stewardship of land and water resources, enrichment of human health and nutrition, animal health and welfare and growth of farm businesses and communities. This would cost $7.6 million.
After hearing all this, we walked to the Capitol and sat down with Rep. Joan Ballweg and Sen. Luther Olsen in their offices to discuss current issues and laws affecting us on our farms. It is such a great experience to tell our story to our legislators. Sometimes they don’t know much about new proposals or laws and really like input from the people that are impacted the most.
It’s our chance as a Farm Bureau members to be lobbyists for a day.
Pete Badtke is a dairy farmer from Ripon where he milks 90 cows and runs about 300 acres land, 200 of which he owns. Pete started farming in 1987. He and his wife of 15 years, Lori, have 2 daughters, Kasie 13, Sarah 12. He currently serves as president of the Green Lake County Farm Bureau board and chairman of Calvary Lutheran Church in Princeton.