Agriculture directly supports over 350,000 jobs in Wisconsin, contributing 10 percent of employment throughout the state. In addition to being prominent, Wisconsin’s agricultural sector is uniquely diverse. Our state ranks first in the production of cheese nationwide and second only to California in milk production. Additionally, Wisconsin produces over 50 percent of the world’s cranberry supply and also yields sizable potato, corn, soybean, cherry, and snap bean crops, contributing to the state’s vast food processing industry.
As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I am working to represent the needs of Wisconsin’s 78,000 farms. I played an active role in crafting the 2014 Farm Bill, which saves taxpayers $23 billion from the previous Farm Bill. The bill eliminated direct payments to farmers who were previously paid regardless of market conditions; repealed or consolidated nearly 100 additional programs; and tightened loopholes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program while targeting program benefits to those most in need.
Moving forward, I am working on the Committee to give Wisconsin a strong voice in the Farm Bill’s implementation. At the same time, I serve as the Chair of the Congressional Dairy and Paper Caucuses, where I am working to build coalitions and raise awareness of important issues and priorities for these two Wisconsin industries.
Promoting Wisconsin Dairy
With a seat on the Dairy Subcommittee, I am working to uphold Wisconsin’s longstanding position as America’s Dairyland. The industry generates $26 billion in economic activity in Wisconsin annually.
During the Farm Bill process, I worked hard to craft a dairy program that would serve the totality of Wisconsin’s diverse dairy industry. The bill replaced outdated dairy programs with a gross margin insurance program that will help dairy farmers to manage their risk during difficult times. I worked successfully during the legislative process and the implementation process to structure the program to work effectively for producers of all sizes. I also ensured that the bill did not include any language that would put Wisconsin farmers at an unfair disadvantage relative to other regions of the country. Click here and here for more information.
Wisconsin’s dairy sector also stands to benefit from expanded international trade. The U.S. is currently engaged in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. If successful, these agreements could yield significant new market opportunities for dairy farmers and cheese makers across both oceans. I am leading bipartisan efforts to expand market access and fight trade barriers for dairy producers during these negotiations. Click here and here for more information.
Improving Forest Management
Wisconsin is also known for its bountiful natural resources, including the 1.5 million acre Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in the Northwoods. Our timber industry is a significant engine of economic activity, providing raw material to paper manufacturers in the 8th District.
On the Forestry Subcommittee, I am working to develop responsible land management practices that promote the use of our forestland for timber harvesting, recreation, and clean air and water. Last year, I helped to introduce and pass the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. This landmark bill will require the Forest Service to actively manage its commercial timber lands by producing at least half of each forest’s annual sustainable timber yield and then share 25 percent of receipts with local counties, while preserving and streamlining consultation requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act.
I also secured several important victories for Wisconsin forestry and paper in the recent Farm Bill. I authored language in the bill to allow the Forest Service to engage retired employees in forest management and timber harvesting work. I also worked with my colleagues to include the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act to preserve the management of forest roads at the state level, and the Forest Products Fairness Act to remove a competitive disadvantage for paper products in USDA programs.
Fighting for Regulatory Relief
In recent years, Wisconsin farmers and forest owners have been targeted by an array of burdensome regulations. I have worked diligently to provide regulatory relief to those who produce our food supply.
I am currently working in Congress to pass the Agricultural Conservation Flexibility Act, a bipartisan bill that I authored to stop a recent federal regulation that would discourage good conservation behavior among farmers. The “Interpretive Rule” issued by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers would narrow current laws that allow dairy farmers and forest owners to conduct soil and water conservation practices without needing federal permits. My bill would withdraw the Interpretive Rule and put legislative clarity in place for years to come.
I also led a successful bipartisan effort to secure needed regulatory relief for Wisconsin’s paper industry in the context of the Boiler MACT and Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incineration rules. Thanks to our work, Wisconsin’s pulp and paper mills have much-needed certainty that various biomass materials will be treated as fuels rather than as solid wastes, which would subject them to additional compliance burdens. Click here for more information.