Evers proposes nearly $25M package targeting agriculture

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gov. Tony Evers has proposed a nearly $25 million package of bills targeting the state’s agriculture industry and rural communities. Evers announced the plans Tuesday, with Democratic lawmakers, at the World Dairy Expo.

The centerpiece is a proposal that would create $20 million in grants to help Wisconsin food banks and pantries buy food from local farmers.

“From putting food on the tables of families across the globe to supporting countless jobs, Wisconsin’s agricultural industry has been and always will be essential to the success of our state, and supporting the industry, our rural communities, and farm families has always been a top priority for me,” Gov. Evers said in a press release. “I was glad of all we accomplished in the budget—creating a new meat processor grant program, assisting farmer mental health programs, and supporting the Wisconsin Initiative for Agricultural Exports—but there is more work left to do to ensure Wisconsin farmers and producers don’t just recover from the pandemic but thrive for years to come.”

Another bill makes $2.6 million in tuition grants available for students enrolled in a meat-processing educational or training program at a college, university or technical college.

The package introduced Tuesday includes:

  • LRB-4244: Invests $20 million to help connect Wisconsin food banks and pantries with Wisconsin producers to provide food to families experiencing food insecurity.
  • LRB-2865: Creates a Meat Talent Development Program, which provides more than $2.6 million in grants to specifically target meat industry workforce development and help spur growth in Wisconsin’s meat processing industry.
  • LRB-4243: Provides additional funding for Something Special from Wisconsin™, a branded marketing program available to businesses who can attribute at least 50 percent of their ingredients, production, or processing activities to Wisconsin.
  • LRB-2867: Creates a new Regional Farmer Mental Health Program to help increase farmers’ access to mental health support services, coordinate local and regional peer support programs, and provide counseling and assistance to Wisconsin farmers.
  • LRB-4328: Provides funding for the Farm-to-School program to get fresh, nutritious, locally-produced foods onto kids’ plates in school cafeterias across Wisconsin. It also creates the Farm-to-Fork program to build connections between farmers and businesses, hospitals, and higher ed facilities interested in purchasing local food for their cafeterias.

The bills would have to be approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature to become law.