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State Senate Approves Bill to Expand Rural Capital Access
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 06/06/2019

The Wisconsin State Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would expand capital access for rural businesses, including cheese manufacturers and processors. As part of Senate Bill 219, the state would launch a pilot program at the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority using existing funds available through the Agribusiness Guarantee Program.

Over $3 million in loan guarantee authority would support rural development projects, including brick-and-mortar investments, equipment and machinery, marketing and working capital. The pilot would guarantee up to 25 percent of a loan, or $750,000, whichever is less. The borrower is required to pay back the entirety of the loan, with a state commitment only coming into play in the event of a default.

John Umhoefer of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association praised the move, saying it would likely spark economic growth in the dairy industry.

"Current lending practices favor development projects in big cities, and the gap in available capital access in rural parts of the state delays some business expansions," Umhoefer said. "This bill will help cheesemakers who want to operate in small towns and villages, nearby their sources of high quality, farm-fresh milk, to invest in the future of their companies, adding good-paying jobs and a dependable local tax base."

The measure was co-sponsored by Senators Howard Marklein of Spring Green and Janet Bewley of Mason, along with Reps Gary Tauchen from Bonduel and Don Vruwink of Milton.

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