There’s hardly anyone in Wisconsin who does not think that farmers, particularly dairy farmers, in the state are facing a crisis. Wisconsin, for example, leads the nation in farm bankruptcies.

But there is also hardly anyone at the Wisconsin Capitol who agrees on how to fix it. 

Gov. Tony Evers used his State of the State speech Wednesday night to call for a special legislative session to address farm needs. 

“I am calling a special session of the legislature next week to take up legislation to invest in our farmers, agricultural industries, and our rural communities,” Evers said. “The package of bills we’ll announce [Thursday] includes a bill creating the Wisconsin Initiative for Dairy Exports. We have to start maximizing efficiency in our small and middle-sized farms, and we need to build Wisconsin’s dairy brand in international markets and increase dairy exports.”

On Thursday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, slammed the door shut on that idea. 

“The Assembly will not be on the floor next week. The bills will be referred to committee and hearings will be held,” Vos said in a statement Thursday. “We’re currently reviewing the legislation and gathering input from farmers, including farmers from our own caucus.”

Vos said he wants to hear from farmers and the people who live in rural Wisconsin before agreeing to anything from the governor. 

“Assembly Republicans have a long track record of responding to the needs of our rural communities, which includes creating the Dairy Innovation Hub, fighting for local road funding, assisting our rural schools, allowing farmers to diversify crops and advancing many other farmer-driven initiatives,” Vos added.

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association on Wednesday said they welcome the governor’s help. 

“Gov. Evers clearly understands the challenges dairy farmers and processors face today,” Cheese Makers Executive Director John Umhoefer said. “We were thrilled that he used his speech to outline the plans he has to partner with our industry and rural community leaders to create a stronger, more prosperous future.”

Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President Joe Bragger said the attention the governor is granting the state’s farm needs is admirable.

“Across the state our members are listening intently to our elected officials and we were pleased on the attention drawn to agriculture,” Bragger said Thursday. “Gov. Evers highlighting our agriculture’s diversity was important, because it is what makes us strong. The support promised to our state’s hard-working farmers was encouraging. Boosting our dairy exports and providing additional resources can only help our stressed farmers.”

Evers on Thursday said his farm crisis package would cost $8.5 million over the next two years. 

The governor said it’s “time to move forward” and stop the in-fighting over ideas that most people in the state agree on.

“We’re past the time of saying who’s in charge, who’s getting the support, who’s getting the credit – that’s just baloney,” the governor said.

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.

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