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Evers Calls for Special Session on Ag Bills, Vos says Not Yet
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/24/2020

One day after laying out plans to help Wisconsin's struggling farmers in his State of the State Address, Gov. Tony Evers has signed a pair of executive orders that would create a Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity, while calling the Legislature into special session next week to consider an array of bills to the tune of $8.5 million to address rural economic challenges facing the agricultural industry. On Thursday, the governor reiterated the details of his three-pronged plan that includes investments in mental health, farm-to-school and farm-to-fork programs, and increasing dairy exports.

"Our state has relied on the resilience and dedication of our farmers for generations, and in this state, nobody carries the burden alone," Evers said. "We need to be better partners for our farmers, agricultural industries, and rural communities. So, today I am proud to be unveiling my three-pronged plan to start addressing these challenges, starting with a special session of the Legislature to get to work on this issue right away."

Legislation highlighted in the Executive Order includes the creation of the Wisconsin Initiative for Dairy Exports; creating a regional mental health program to coordinate and provide mental health support in rural communities; bolstering Wisconsin's farm-to-school program; and establishing a farm-to-fork program that will help connect farmers and the food they produce to universities, technical colleges, hospitals, and local businesses.

Evers also announced he will be working with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to establish the Office of Rural Prosperity to provide assistance to Wisconsinites in navigating state programs and resources tailored to rural communities, businesses and workers.

And although Evers' plans did garner bipartisan support, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos issued a statement on Thursday saying the Assembly will not be on the floor next week and that the bills will be referred to various committees for hearings.

"We're currently reviewing the legislation and gathering input from farmers, including farmers from our own caucus," Vos said. "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. It's important that we continue to listen to Wisconsinites who live in our rural communities before moving forward on anything."

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in his own statement that he's interested in learning more about Evers' proposals, but could not promise much action before the Senate adjourns in March.

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