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Brancel: State Budget Will Benefit Wisconsin Agriculture
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 06/28/2011

Wisconsin's agriculture secretary says the biennial state budget signed by Governor Scott Walker this past weekend does have several provisions that farmers should be happy to see. In an editorial released by Ben Brancel on Monday, the top DATCP official said the $66 billion spending package will continue to protect consumers and ensure fair business practices, while preserving our land and water resources.

"Although there were tough decisions to be made, I'm grateful that Governor Walker and our lawmakers continue to support agriculture in Wisconsin which is a $59 billion industry and accounts for nearly 354,000 jobs or 10 percent of total employment," Brancel said. "[It will] provide a safe and wholesome food supply, and maintain human, animal and plant health to foster a vibrant agriculture that will continue to grow economically and benefit all."

One of the main agricultural elements in the budget includes funding for meat processing and inspections. Brancel says the budget allows the ag department to hire 10 additional meat inspectors, of which five positions will be funded by state tax dollars with the remaining expenses being covered by USDA.

"These positions will meet the need for public health and safety under new federal inspection requirements for state inspected meat processors," Brancel noted. "Wisconsin can fully implement the new interstate meat shipment program that provides an opportunity for our meat industry to grow and expand their market sales across state lines."

The Dairy 2020 program has been transferred from the Department of Commerce to DATCP, bringing $200,000 in grant funds to complement existing business development programs to create a one-stop shop for dairy processors and farmers to get started, modernize or expand. The budget also maintains investment tax credits for dairy manufacturers, food processing plants, and food warehouses as well as meat processing plants. Brancel says the ag department will certify the eligibility of the businesses participating in this program.

Meanwhile, he says the budget retains nearly $18 million annually for grants to be provided to farmers and county conservation staff.

"This is key as county staff are on the front-line of conservation work in Wisconsin," the secretary wrote. "They are literally the boots on the ground assisting farmers to install conservation practices and protect the land and water resources throughout the state."

As reported, the state's farmland preservation program are also maintained in the budget. Brancel says the budget provides $27 million in farmland preservation tax credits to Wisconsin farmers when they meet their conservation responsibilities.

And one of the key elements that many in agriculture have been watching is how previously selected applicants in the Purchase of Agriculture Conservation Easement program would be affected. Brancel says funding for the 2010 PACE participants has been secured.

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