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 2012 Farm Bill. Last fall, when the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was slated to include a Farm Bill in its proposal, I spoke up as a member of the Agriculture Committee to give voice to Wisconsin farmers on a wide range of pertinent issues.
Below are some of the primary areas associated with this critical industry
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 have also joined the Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus to collaborate with like-minded members from other dairy states.
Wisconsin dairy farmers endured significant losses of equity in 2009 amidst the global economic downturn. While several U.S. Department of Agriculture programs attempted to mitigate the impact of the crisis, we in Congress plan to consider multiple proposals to reform our dairy pricing and support programs in order to prevent another market collapse and provide producers with long-term certainty in today’s global agriculture market.
During this process, I am working with my colleagues to ensure that a new dairy safety net meets the needs of Wisconsin farmers and processors. Wisconsin’s dairy industry is as diverse as any in the nation, so I hope to craft policy that provides a competitive safety net for our producers without placing an undue burden on our cheese makers and other manufacturers.
Wisconsin is also known for its bountiful natural resources, including the 1.5 million acre Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in the Northwoods. With my serving on the Forestry Subcommittee, I am working with my colleagues to develop smart 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. Last year, I invited a representative from our own timber sector to speak before the Agriculture Committee and I subsequently co-hosted a forestry policy conference in Northern Wisconsin to hear more from all stakeholders about this critically important issue.
I continue to be concerned that the U.S. Forest Service’s current forest management proposal fails to prioritize the mixed use of our resources, and I am working with my colleagues to solve this problem in the context of the 2012 Farm Bill. Active and responsible timber harvesting in Wisconsin’s forests will spur growth in our timber and paper sectors.
In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed numerous regulations that would saddle thousands of Wisconsin farmers with added costs that would put their operations in dire financial straits. From the impending “farm dust” rules regarding coarse matter on our farms to the “milk spill” proposal that would have initially treated milk as oil, the EPA continues to make policy that fails to account for the unique needs of American farmers.
Wisconsin’s dairy farmers, livestock producers, and growers all stand to benefit from efforts to roll back EPA’s overreach. I have worked with my colleagues on and off the Agriculture Committee to rein in the agency’s rulemaking practices. I have also voted in favor of multiple proposals to curtail EPA’s authority over agriculture and have directly urged Administrator Lisa Jackson to better account for the burdens already facing our farmers as her agency develops policy in the future.
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.