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Wisconsin Ag News Headlines
Brancel to Return to DATCP as Secretary, Stepp Leads DNR
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 12/30/2010

When it came to selecting a new agriculture secretary, Governor-elect Scott Walker decided to go with someone with past experience. On Thursday, Ben Brancel was named as one of the new cabinet members of Walker's administration. A former state ag secretary under Tommy Thompson from 1997-2001, Brancel will return to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection with even more credentials than before.

After being replaced by former Governor Scott McCullum about 10 years ago, Brancel was appointed by the Bush Administration to serve as the director of the Wisconsin Farm Service Agency--a post he held until early 2009. In February of last year, he was hired to serve as the part-time state relations liaison for the University of Wisconsin-Madison's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, a position funded from donor resources.

"I'm excited to have the opportunity to once again serve the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection community and work alongside Governor-elect Walker to grow Wisconsin's economy," Brancel was quoted in a statement from the transition office.

Brancel, 60, is a fifth-generation beef producer from Endeavor, where he raises Angus beef cattle on a 290-acre farm with help from his wife, Gail. After serving on the Marquette County board of supervisor and local school board, he was elected to serve in the State Assembly's 42nd district in 1987. Over the following decade, he would rise through the ranks and become Assembly Speaker until 1997 when Governor Thompson tapped him to run the DATCP after Alan Tracy left for another job.

Meanwhile, the state's Natural Resources Department will be lead by Cathy Stepp. She was a state Senator representing the 21st district from 2003-2007, where she co-chaired the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee. Stepp has also been employed as a Vice President at Magnum Truck and Equipment, Inc., worked with the Wisconsin Builders' Association, National Association of Home Builders and numerous other local builders' groups. Stepp is said to be an avid outdoorswoman.

"I will work tirelessly with the incoming administration to find innovative ways to protect Wisconsin's valuable natural resources, improve the overall permitting process, and embark on a top to bottom review of current regulations, all while focusing on growing our state's economy."

Stepp has already announced that Matt Moroney, an attorney and former executive director of the Metropolitan Builders of Greater Milwaukee, will be her deputy secretary at the DNR; with Rep. Scott Gunderson of Waterford selected as the agency's executive assistant.

Walker told several agricultural groups in early December that his DATCP and DNR secretaries would need to have hands-on experience in their respective areas, must also have respect among their industries, and have some sort of legislative experience.

He also mentioned that farmers should be more concerned with who he picks as the natural resources secretary, because he feels that agency has 'done more to halt agricultural growth in recent years than DATCP has done to help it.'

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