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 as the panel works on the new Farm Bill. I voted for the draft 2012 Farm Bill that passed in our Committee by a wide bipartisan margin. In addition to helping Wisconsin dairy farmers to manage their risk, the new Farm Bill also expands opportunities for fruit and vegetable production, improves management of national forests, and supports organic farming in Wisconsin. I look forward to completing work on this long-term bill in 2013.
Below are some of the primary areas associated with this critical industry
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. I am also a member of the Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus, which allows like-minded members from dairy states to collaborate on numerous issues.
Last fall, I fought to ensure that dairy farmers were not left behind as Congress prepared to extend the 2008 Farm Bill. I successfully put together a broad, bipartisan, and bicameral coalition to press for an extension of the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program until a new Farm bill has been completed. The program provides a vital safety net to Wisconsin dairy farmers during times of low milk price and high feed cost. Ultimately, I secured an extension of the MILC program for another year as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (H.R. 8), which was signed into law in January.
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. With my position on the Forestry Subcommittee, I am working with my colleagues to develop responsible land management practices that promote multiple uses of our forestlands for timber harvesting, recreation, and clean air and water.
Wisconsin’s timber industry is a significant engine of economic activity, providing raw material to paper manufacturers throughout the 8th District. During my first term, I invited two representatives from our own forestry sector to speak before the Agriculture Committee and I also co-hosted a forestry policy conference in Northern Wisconsin to hear more from all stakeholders about this critically important issue.
I am working to advance legislation to revitalize timber harvesting in Wisconsin and have pressed the U.S. Forest Service to increase harvesting levels to spur job growth in our region. I successfully included provisions in last year’s Farm Bill to devote additional staff to active forest management, and I will pursue final enactment of the language this year. I will also continue to push for passage of the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act, which I cosponsored to preserve the regulation of forest roads at the state level.
Fighting for Regulatory Relief
Wisconsin farmers have been targeted by a mounting array of burdensome regulations. I have worked diligently to provide those who produce our food supply with relief from this deluge. Below is a sampling of my efforts to push for regulatory common sense.
- Agriculture Hours of Service: I incorporated language into last year’s Highway Bill to clarify driving time rules to give Wisconsin farmers and their suppliers added flexibility during harvest season. This legislative “fix” will ensure the timely movement of farm goods and agricultural products. Click here for more information.
- EPA’s “Milk Spill” Rule: I cosponsored legislation and directly pressed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to finalize an exemption for dairy farmers from a proposal that would have initially treated milk as oil. Fortunately, due to significant Congressional pressure, the EPA clarified this rule.
- Livestock Marketing: I led a bipartisan coalition to urge the Department of Agriculture to modify its controversial “GIPSA” livestock marketing rule that would have impacted many jobs in Wisconsin. The rule was ultimately scaled back and stripped of its problematic competitive injury provisions.
- Pesticide Permitting: During my first term, I joined a bipartisan majority of my House colleagues to pass the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act to prevent pesticide users like farmers and forest owners from having to obtain duplicative permits for the same action. This legislation was also included in the House Farm Bill and I will continue to press for its enactment.
- Gray Wolf: I worked with the bipartisan Wisconsin Congressional delegation to push for the delisting of the gray wolf from the endangered species list. The wolf was delisted in December 2011.
New Trade Opportunities
Wisconsin’s agricultural sector stands to benefit from expanded international trade. During my first year in Congress, I helped lead the charge to urge the Administration to move forward on pending agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia. I am grateful that Congress passed, and the President signed, the trade pacts in October 2011. Full implementation of these agreements will represent nearly $3 billion in new trade for American farmers. Wisconsin agriculture will benefit through expanded exports of dairy products, corn, soybeans, beef, pork, cherries, and numerous other processed foods. Click here for more information.
In addition, I am currently leading a bipartisan effort to level the playing field for our dairy farmers in Canada by pressing for removal of trade restrictions on U.S. dairy products; expanded market access in Canada would be a significant win for Wisconsin’s dairy industry. I also worked during my first term to secure the removal of devastating tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico.