Last December, Governor Tony Evers nominated Brad Pfaff to be Wisconsin’s Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.
In February, a Committee on Agriculture, Revenue, and Financial Institutions consisting of four Democrats and five Republicans unanimously recommended Pfaff’s confirmation.
In the over eight months since then, Pfaff has been serving as the Secretary-designee of the Department. But he has yet to be confirmed, and according to Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Pfaff may not have the votes to be confirmed when the Senate reconvenes tomorrow.
That implication comes as death by suicide and mental health issues among dairy farmers are on the rise, due in part to what Pfaff calls a “triple-whammy.”
“The financial stress that [Wisconsin farmers] are facing right now is a result of a triple-whammy of low prices, international trade pressures, as well as the weather situation causing more stress in the countryside,” says Pfaff.
In an interview with WTMJ-TV yesterday, Fitzgerald said Brad Pfaff is “part of the problem” and that Pfaff has failed to do anything to resolve Wisconsin’s ongoing dairy crisis.
Trempealeau County Farm Bureau President Shane Goplin disagrees
He says Pfaff visited Trempealeau and Buffalo Counties last February to meet with farmers whose livelihoods were at risk due to ice and heavy snow.
Although they were only able to visit two farms during their allotted time, Goplin says Pfaff insisted on visiting two more farms and didn’t leave until nearly four hours after he was originally scheduled to.
Because of this and other work, Goplin thinks Secretary-designee Pfaff has gone above and beyond his duties.
“I was fortunate enough to have him at our Trumpealeau County annual meeting,” Goplin says.
“He spoke to us and he’s worked abroad helping promote Wisconsin agriculture, trade, and the mental health of farmers, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t be nominated,” he adds.
In a press release yesterday, Governor Tony Evers suggested Republicans intend to reject Pfaff’s confirmation as retribution for remarks the Secretary-designee made this summer.
Pfaff came under Republican fire in July, after the Legislature’s budget-writing committee decided not to release $100,000 in funding for farmer mental health assistance provided in the Governor’s budget.
Pfaff said then that without the Joint Finance Committee releasing the funding, the state’s agriculture department would be able to assist just five more farmers mental health counseling vouchers.
Goplin says that it would be a blow to him if Pfaff’s confirmation were denied because of politics, and stresses that Wisconsin’s farmers need a figure who can offer steady support.
“With the rising amount of suicides, we need stability in Madison, and if Brad is not appointed, how long [will it be] before we get another one? I don’t know if we can afford to wait that long. We need somebody who’s already doing a spectacular job and keep moving forward,” Goplin says.
On Monday, a slew of individuals representing agricultural interests in the state including the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association’s President Doug Rebout wrote to Wisconsin Senators reaffirming their support for the Secretary-designee.
“Our support for Brad has not wavered. We’re still right there, and we’re still saying the same things we said [during the ]. Brad is someone that comes from agriculture [and] he knows agriculture. That’s someone that we need right now with what’s going on out in the farming community,” says Rebout.
Pfaff’s firing would be extraordinary as no gubernatorial cabinet nominee has been rejected by the Wisconsin State Senate dating back to 1987.
The full Senate is scheduled to vote on Pfaff’s confirmation tomorrow.