Last week, Wisconsin Assembly Republicans announced their plan for a new farm assistance package. Today, they offered more details on a plan that they claim will do more to help farmers, especially in the short term, than Evers’ plan would.
Wisconsin’s agriculture industry has struggled in recent years.
Wisconsin has lost an average of two farms a day in the last eight years, about a third of farmers in the state suffer from depression or anxiety, and a recent study from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that, in the Midwest, male farmers were nearly two times more likely to die by suicide than other groups of rural men.
Last month, during his state of the state address, Governor Evers introduced a package of bills to support Wisconsin’s struggling farmers.
“We have leaned on farmers and their families, we have depended on their dedication and we’ve relied on their resilience. And tonight we say that we are ready to be a partner in the promise of posterity,” Evers said.
In particular, Evers’ bills focus on providing planning assistance and mental health resources to farmers. They would also promote production of agricultural products, and award grants to programs that support Wisconsin agriculture and locally produced foods.
Evers’ proposal would also add extra staff to the state agricultural department. Those staffers would work to increase the nationwide and even worldwide reach of Wisconsin dairy products.
Darin Von Ruden, President of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, also emphasizes the importance of trade.
“Trade is a necessity. What we can do here in the state will certainly help on the national side too. It would be nice if every single state would put the same amount of dollars into looking at those export markets,” Von Ruden says.
“With the trade wars that have been going on, some of those markets are gonna take longer to build up. The question is, those markets that we’re looking into, can they actually afford the products that we produce, and are we going to be displacing farmers in other countries through that?”
Many of Evers’ goals are echoed by Republican lawmakers, but Republicans say Evers’ proposals would take too long and add too many government employees while their bills would help farmers immediately.
And, they argue that their plan would put money directly into the hands of farmers.
The Republicans’ package would add only one employee — to specialize in economic development. That’s in contrast to Evers’ bills, which would fund twenty county-based specialists to provide support services for farmers, including mental health services.
The GOP package would include a heavier focus on health insurance deductions for farmers. The plan would also include a three-year tax credit for the state’s smallest farms. That means farmers may end up getting up to $7,500 back from the state.
According to Speaker Robin Vos, the GOP’s bills should be on the floor next week.