Dem lawmakers have introduced a package of measures aimed at providing financial stability to farmers in the state facing “an agricultural crisis.”
Reps. Dave Considine of Baraboo, Mark Spreitzer of Beloit, Don Vruwink of Milton and Sen. Janis Ringhand of Evansville were joined by local farmers in a Capitol news conference yesterday to unveil three bipartisan pieces of legislation that would alleviate financial pressures on new farmers and improve farm succession planning.
The first proposal would create a grant program that would provide grants of up to $50,000 to diversify small-scale farming operations, while a second measure would create a student loan assistance program for newly graduated farmers. The program would reimburse higher education debt up to $30,000 with the provision that the recipient commits to farming in Wisconsin for at least five years.
“This bill will truly help Wisconsin lead the way in supporting our next generation of farmers,” Spreitzer said.
The last proposal would create two positions within the UW-Madison Division of the Extension program that would educate and assist farmers in planning for transitioning ownership. The measure would allocate $224,000 annually to help facilitate financial proceedings and help farmers plan for the transition process earlier in their careers.
“The succession planning process for farmers is extremely important. It’s an absolute necessity for the continuance of the traditional Wisconsin multigenerational family farm,” local farmer Gene Larsen said.
All three proposals boast bipartisan backing and Considine said he and his colleagues are hopeful Republican leadership will bring the bills to a vote.
“I wouldn’t say that we have any assurances, but I’m optimistic,” Considine said.
A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the Speaker’s office is reviewing the package while Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, was not immediately available for comment.