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Agriculture Gets More Limelight in State of State Address
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/23/2014

Gov. Scott Walker's annual address to the state legislature emphasized Wisconsin's growing economy and major tax reform proposals, but the topic of agriculture also took up a major part of his remarks. In his fourth State of the State address on Wednesday, Walker stressed that manufacturing and agriculture are two of the core industries that are moving the Badger State forward.

"Thankfully, both are playing a big role in our economic recovery," Walker said. "Milk production went up at double the national rate over the past year. And agricultural exports grew by six-percent through the first three quarters of 2013, while dairy exports grew by 34-percent."

He added that the manufacturing and agriculture production tax credit established last year has helped create jobs, while growing industry and the economy on both the state and local levels.

"In addition to the credit, we made major investments in agriculture this year. At the University of Wisconsin, we are expanding the Dairy Resource Center at Babcock Hall and building a new Meat Science and Muscle Biology Laboratory. We have a similar partnership with Dane County on improvements for the World Dairy Expo."

And he gave a plug to other types of farming, saying Wisconsin is a major producer of commodities like corn, soybeans, potatoes, cherries and cranberries.

"Ninety-five percent of the ginseng exported to China comes from our state," said Walker, adding that the state signed a 10-year agreement with China in 2013 to supply that country with millions of dollars worth of ginseng products in future years.

He praised state business owners for having the best job creation rate between April and November since 1994. And he singled out successful Wisconsin-based companies like A & B Process Systems in Stratford, which hired 50 more people over the past year; and Amazon.com for its recent major expansion in the state.

Meanwhile, Walker did take a few shots at his predecessor, saying Wisconsin lost more than 133,000 jobs and more than 27,000 businesses during former Gov. Jim Doyle's watch.

"If property taxes had continued to grow at the pace they did during Governor Doyle's final term in office, the typical homeowner would have paid $680 more by the end of this term," he said. "It seems like a long time ago, but taxes went up $1.7 billion in Governor Doyle's last budget in 2009. Four years later, our budget lowered the tax burden by nearly $1 billion."

Much of the speech was used to promote new initiatives, such as programs designed to help people with disabilities find work and get a solid education. And his proposed Blueprint for Prosperity aims to return new surplus funds back to tax payers, while adding more than $100 million to the state's rainy day fund.

He is also proposing $500 million in property and income tax cuts over the next 17 months.

"In addition, our Blueprint for Prosperity will increase the Wisconsin Fast Forward program by $35 million to focus on three new areas," which he says includes manufacturing, agriculture and information technology.

Walker also announced a two-year tuition freeze at the University of Wisconsin System.

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