Development of State Biennial Budget Priorities
WFBF’s governmental relations team has taken into consideration the policy modifications and directions from the resolution session during the 2020 WFBF Annual Meeting as well as relevant issues that are pending for consideration in the new legislative session. Using these resources, the governmental relations team has developed priorities that will be shared with legislators for the 2021-2022 biennial budget.
Some of the priorities reflect new legislative action while others seek to maintain current funding or positions for the upcoming biennial budget. A number of these proposals were introduced in the last session but failed to become law.
The governmental relations team has begun contacting and working to re-establish relationships with re-elected and newly elected legislators. Outreach with members of the Joint Committee on Finance has been ongoing to discuss budget priorities. Rep. Gary Tauchen and Sen. Joan Ballweg will be chairing their respective Ag Committees as well.
Proposed Changes to NR 151 Nitrate Levels in Targeted Regions of the State
WFBF has partnered with other agricultural groups to engage with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection regarding proposed changes for the regulation that attempts to control nitrate levels in specific regions of the state (NR 151). Over the past months, a technical advisory committee has met with DNR representatives and discussed the goals that DNR has for making modifications to this rule.
One of the next steps required in the process is a thorough financial analysis of the proposed changes – in other words, what is the practical cost of the proposed changes. DNR will determine the economic impact of these rule changes. DNR has also asked UW-Madison’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Applied Economics Department to provide a realistic sense of the financial impact of the proposed changes to compare with the DNR findings. UW CALS will be forming focus groups to provide additional input into the data they collect. This process has begun and is expected to be completed before the end of February.
UW CALS has put out a call for farmers to join them in evaluating what these changes might mean to people in the industry. WFBF has asked members who own farmland to engage in these focus groups and provide input into this financial exercise to provide DNR with the most accurate information.
To date, DNR has not published their proposed changes to the rule. DNR intends to publish the changes at the same time they release their economic impact study.
On Jan. 4, Speaker Robin Vos introduced Assembly Bill 1. This is a lengthy, multi-faceted proposal that addresses 40 diverse venues where the pandemic has resulted in negative impacts on Wisconsin citizens. General categories include corrections, education, employment, childcare, insurance, public utilities, public health, local governments and taxation.
Along with many other agricultural organizations, WFBF sent a letter of support to the governor and legislature regarding a specific section of this bill that addresses an employer’s civil liability for the death or injury to any individual or damages resulting from COVID-19 that are claimed to be caused through the performance or provision of the employing entity’s functions or service.
AFBF and WFBF Request COVID-19 Vaccination Priority for Agriculture and Food Workers
American Farm Bureau Federation joined a coalition of farm and agribusiness organizations to send letters to the National Governors Association, the Trump Administration and the Biden Transition Team encouraging that food and agricultural workers be included among high priority populations.
On Dec. 4, WFBF joined a coalition of 20 other agricultural and supporting organizations to make a similar request to Gov. Tony Evers.
On Jan. 12 the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee Vaccine Distribution Subcommittee announced its recommendations defining what segments of the workforce should be included in the next priority round to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. This would be considered priority Group 1B. (Group 1A included frontline health care workers, long-term care staff and residents and police and firefighters.)
The announcement of Group 1B included prioritizing teachers, first responders, childcare workers, prisoners, individuals over the age of 70 and mink husbandry workers. Other than the mink farm employees, no acknowledgment was made to provide vaccines for any other segment of agriculture workers or food processing employees.
Agriculture organizations including WFBF submitted comments to Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services. The comment requested consideration of our industry to be included in Group 1B, especially since Wisconsin is now anticipating the receipt of additional doses of vaccine.
Gov. Evers signed Phase 1B to include food production, agriculture and grocers. This includes large animal veterinarians and others providing service to farms such as breeding technicians and service personnel.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau is involved in two cases that have a significant impact on farmers. The cases, Clean Wisconsin, Inc. v. DNR and Kinnard Farms, Inc. v. DNR, involve high-capacity wells and CAFO permitting, respectively.
In 2011, more than 30 Wisconsin business groups, including WFBF, lobbied for 2011 Wis. Act 21, a law that critically limited the authority of state agencies by requiring all agencies to have explicit statutory authority in order to implement or enforce any regulatory standard.
A decade after its enactment, we are still fighting to enforce 2011 Act 21. But two recent Supreme Court decisions support our position.
WFBF has participated as an intervenor in the Clean Wisconsin case and as an amicus party in the Kinnard Farms case. If the Supreme Court agrees with our positions in these cases and finds that legislative delegations to agencies must indeed be explicit, then Act 21 may become one of the most important constraints ever imposed on agency authority in Wisconsin.
Federal 2020 COVID-19 Relief Package
The relief package totals $900 billion. Thirteen billion dollars will go to programs that directly benefit agriculture with $284 billion added to the Paycheck Protection Program. There is $7 billion allocated for broadband, including $300 million for rural broadband and $250 million for telehealth.
U.S. to Challenge Canada’s Dairy Quotas under USMCA
The Trump administration took the first steps to begin the process of challenging Canada’s implementation of new tariffs rate quotas. The two countries will now begin consultations under dispute rules laid out in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which could lead to the formation of an official dispute panel.
Canada is operating the tariff-rate quotas to give 85 percent of them to Canadian processors so they can buy products that don’t compete with Canadian products, according to U.S dairy industry officials. The result is that the U.S. is not able to export more of the high-priority products, like mozzarella directly to restaurants, for instance.
Dean Food Bankruptcy Letter
Almost 500 dairy farmers who once sold milk to Dean Foods received letters threatening legal action unless they refund money legitimately earned prior to the bankruptcy filing.
AFBF is aware of the situation and has responded to lawyers representing Dean Foods with a letter of its own. If you have received this letter, please reach out to WFBF.
Mississippi River Locks Construction
In late 2020, the FY21 Energy & Water Appropriations bill was signed. The bill calls for a new lock construction start – determined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This is an opportunity to get the Navigation-Ecosystem Sustainability Program started.
WFBF President Kevin Krentz authored a letter supporting the funding and construction for locks on the Mississippi River directed to Assistant Secretary of the Army R.D. James. This letter was also sent to the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation.
Brazil Adds Tariff to Ethanol
Brazil has added a 20 percent tariff on imports of U.S. ethanol. The tariff comes after the expiration of a tariff-rate quota on Dec.14. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Brazil were not able to reach an agreement to extend the tariff-free treatment for imports of U.S. ethanol. Brazil was importing 198 million gallons of U.S. ethanol duty-free. The initial TRQ expired on Aug. 31 and was extended until Dec. 14.
The ethanol industry has lost billions this year. Revenue that is not from pent up demand but lost and cannot be made up. This resulted in 700 million fewer bushels of corn being used for ethanol.
Leave a Reply