WAC Legislative Policy
PURPOSE OF THE WISCONSIN AGRIBUSINESS COUNCIL
The Wisconsin Agribusiness Council, established in 1971, is an independent non-governmental, voluntary organization of businesses that are directly involved in the agricultural industry. The Council provides a strong, unified and effective voice for Wisconsin Agriculture and encourages the growth and profitability of the industry. Council policies are advanced through non-partisan government involvement and educational initiatives.
Members of the WAC include but are not limited to: processors, crop protection companies and consultants, bankers, equipment dealers, producers, utilities, agricultural organizations, educators and consumers.
Since the Agribusiness Council was incorporated, its goals have been clear:
• to increase awareness of Wisconsin's agribusiness industry and its vital importance to the overall economic well-being of the state and nation;
• to further the development and prosperity of businesses engaged in agriculture;
• to promote greater unity of interest and purpose among different agricultural production and agribusiness enterprises and groups;
• to identify positions and/or policies favorable to Wisconsin agribusiness and to bring those to the attention of the Wisconsin legislature and other governing bodies and leadership;
• to represent the interests of Wisconsin agribusiness to the Wisconsin Legislature and to work with representatives of the various Wisconsin agribusiness constituents in doing so;
• to keep the Wisconsin agribusiness community informed of important issues affecting it in the legislative, regulatory, environmental, educational and legal arenas; and,
• to advance agribusiness interests and programs in concert with all other agricultural and agribusiness entities in Wisconsin including but not limited to the various commodity groups, applicable state agencies and universities involved in studies impacting agriculture;
• To improve the agricultural literacy of Wisconsin's and the nation's citizenry so they better understand how they are fed, clothed and sheltered.
Business Development and Expansion - We support legislation that encourages the development and expansion of agribusinesses in Wisconsin.
Free Enterprise – We support the free-market economy and the freedom to contract in such system.
On-Farm Business Expansion: We encourage the development and/or diversification of on-farm business enterprises to include but not be limited to: tours, specialty products, value-added products and services.
Wisconsin’s approximately $20 billion dairy industry produces more than 22 billion pounds of milk each year. Our producers are dedicated to providing top quality milk and dairy products and have become known as some of the best producers in the world.
Dairy Prices – We support a dairy pricing system that is equitable and transparent for all dairy producers.
Dairy 2020 – We support funding and a commitment to the Dairy 2020 program, which has made great strides in strengthening the state’s dairy industry.
Education - We support increased promotion of Wisconsin’s dairy industry and increased education on the dietary value of dairy products.
Imitation Ingredients – We oppose changing cheese making standards to allow the use of imported milk protein concentrates, casein and other non-dairy ingredients to make standardized cheese. We support the current system requiring dairy products containing non-dairy ingredients to be labeled as non-dairy.
Labeling – We urge that only dairy products manufactured in the state be allowed to be labeled as Wisconsin dairy products. We are opposed to any labeling issues targeting “safe milk”.
Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) – We continue to support the MILC or similar type program.
Modernization Initiatives – We support the creation of government initiatives that help facilitate the modernization of the dairy industry, including production, processing, and infrastructure.
USDA/FDA Approved Products – We support the dairy producer’s right to use USDA/FDA approved products.
Revitalize Agricultural Education in Wisconsin - We encourage the strengthening of Wisconsin's agricultural education infrastructure to insure an adequate number of properly trained personnel and to maintain Wisconsin's leadership role in the agriculture economy. We endorse the recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Ag Education.
Agricultural Literacy: We believe information on the food and fiber system should be systematically and seamlessly included in the K-12 education curriculum.
K-12 Teacher Certification – We recommend that all K-12 teachers be required to study content, teaching methods, educational research and practice related to agriculture before they are able to obtain certification. The curriculum should include but not be limited to: how agriculture benefits society, how food is produced, agricultural economics and careers in agriculture.
Extended Contract Hours – To ensure that students become well rounded in their preparation for community and business leadership, and that they have “hands-on” experience through entrepreneurial and other work-based learning opportunities, we urge that school districts provide secondary and middle school agriculture teachers extended contracts.
Secondary Agriculture Education Programs - We urge that an advisory committee, FFA alumnus or alumni organization be included when evaluating the quality and/or value of a local program under the state standards for agricultural education.
U.W. System Board of Regents – We recommend the governor appoint individuals with both a strong educational interest and who are active in agriculture to serve on the U.W. System Board of Regents.
Youth Apprenticeship Program - We support the Youth Apprenticeship Program and believe that it is essential in developing the skills to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s agriculture industry.
Youth Mentorship Programs - We support the development and implementation of Youth Mentorship Programs to help foster an awareness and interest in the agricultural industry and to assist in the development of the skills of young people pursuing a career in agriculture.
Postsecondary Education – We support the continuation and expansion of farm-business and production-management education for Wisconsin agricultural producers provided by the Wisconsin Technical College and the University of Wisconsin Systems.
Veterinary Student Loan Assistance Program - We support the development of a Loan Assistance Program for students who become food animal veterinarians.
Credit Transfer – We encourage cooperation between the Wisconsin educational systems in regards to transfer policies, state aids and student financial aid.
Science Credit – We encourage all school districts to evaluate their science/biology agricultural courses and to count those courses as “science” credits for graduation if the course curriculum is equivalent to other science courses being offered at the school. In addition, we encourage schools to have their “science” agricultural courses approved through the University System so they are accepted as science courses for admission requirements.
Applied Research & Development - We support the enhancement of applied research and development in the agricultural production and agribusiness industries to generate new ideas, new processes and educational value.
Ag Education and Workforce Development Council – We support the work of the Wisconsin Agricultural Education and Workforce Development Council as enacted in ACT 223 in the 2007 Legislative Session whose purpose is to encourage cooperation between industry and education to assure adequacy of the future workforce for Wisconsin’s agricultural, food and natural resources systems. We also support the use of General Purpose Revenue monies to fund the foundational work of the Council.
Alternative Sources - We support the continued development of research and programs to promote the use of cost efficient use of farm products and byproducts as renewable/alternative fuel sources while maintaining the affordability of these products for all entities utilizing these products. We support the 25x25 renewable energy initiatives and the development of economic incentives that encourage farm-based energy generation, biofuels and the development of renewable fuel standards, thereby strengthening Wisconsin's energy infrastructure and providing economic opportunity for Wisconsin agriculture.
Reliable Energy – We support efforts to increase all sources of energy, including nuclear to assure increased reliability of energy critical to rural economies. This includes the construction of and improvement to Wisconsin’s transmission infrastructure.
Electrical Usage – Because stray voltage can have a major economic impact on animal health and productivity, we support continued study of the stray voltage issue.
We urge that the Public Service Commission implement policies on the modernization of lines and electric facilities to diminish stray voltage problems.
We support the continuation of a state guaranteed loan program for farmers to be utilized for wiring updates, increased farm safety, implementation of energy conservation and reduction of stray voltage. We also support the continuing education of rural electricians.
We support the Department of Commerce adding additional electrical inspectors for assessment of on-farm electrical wiring assistance programs.
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES
The use of agricultural chemicals has made it possible to produce more food per acre of land under cultivation, keeping many acres of wilderness in their natural state. Agricultural pesticides also play an important role in protecting health and safety of food products from toxic molds and fungus. We support the advocacy of co-existence resulting in the responsible use of chemicals as an essential part of producing society’s food and fiber.
Restricted Use Pesticides – We support the use of the latest and best available scientific data in setting restricted use pesticide standards (e.g. products containing Atrazine or Simazine,) and urge that they be revised to reflect the new federal drinking water levels of comparison which have been published in the atrazine IRED. We also support using 50% of the enforcement standard as the level the state uses in revocation of atrazine prohibition areas. We oppose the mandating of state management plans by the Environmental Protection Agency prior to the implementation of revised registration standards based on EPA’s Triazine review.
Chemical Fee Structure/ACCP – We strongly support the continuation of the Agricultural Chemical Cleanup Fund program. We are greatly concerned by the continual raiding of the agricultural chemical cleanup fund (ACCP) and Agrichemical Management Fund (ACM). These funds must be protected for their intended use. We urge the Legislature to pass legislation to ensure that industry fees are maintained in the appropriate funds/programs for which they were intended when they were first established. In addition, we support a review of the fee structure to fairly “collect” fees from all chemical sales, both from within Wisconsin and from across state lines.
Clean Sweep – We support the continuation of the Clean Sweep Program. We also urge that state general purpose revenues (GPR) be used as the source of income to fund the program.
Discovery Farms – We strongly support the continuation of the Discovery Farms and Pioneer Farms initiatives and the use of the scientific findings as they relate to nutrient management, Best Management Practices, and conservation practices.
Regulations – The development and application of regulations for both pesticides and fertilizers must be based on sound, peer-reviewed science to prevent undue constraints on the agricultural community.
Fertilizer Preemption – We support updating Wisconsin’s Pesticide Preemption law to include fertilizer and seed.
Use Reporting – We support a statistically based survey process for the collection of pesticide use data. The process must involve the Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. It must also maintain the confidentiality of the respondent, be uniform for household and agricultural use, and be coordinated with the USDA and EPA to provide a consistent, credible source of data.
Water – The protection and use of ground and surface waters are of primary importance to all citizens as well as all facets of Wisconsin agriculture. We support the use of fiscally responsible state funded programs and research aimed at protecting our water resources, through sound science practices, while ensuring the availability for agricultural needs.
Integrated Pest Management - We support Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a pest management system that utilizes suitable techniques and methods in an economical and environmentally sound manner to manage pest populations at levels below those causing economically unacceptable damage or loss.
Landscape Pesticide Registry and Posting – We oppose the portion of the state registry that allows a few people to submit hundreds of addresses for advance notice of commercial lawn and ornamental pesticide application. This requirement has proven burdensome to the applicator and has not provided useful information to the consumer.
Non-Point Source Pollution – We believe that ensuring a clean and safe water supply is a top priority of the agricultural industry. We are supportive of regulations that are reasonable and that do not place undue hardships on Wisconsin producers.
Nutrient Management - We support the development of nutrient management plans with the use of BMPs and sound science principles. In addition, we support one uniform standard for all Wisconsin farmland.
Mercury – We support the use of federal guidelines for mercury emissions in Wisconsin.
Wetlands – We are very supportive of protecting the state’s wetlands and recommend that a consistent and uniform set of definitions and regulations be adopted for all wetlands.
We also urge that the stringent regulations applied to farmers be extended and enforced to all landowners, developers, municipalities and state and federal agencies on an equal and fair basis.
Wetlands that have been farmed should be allowed to remain in agricultural production.
Cranberry Marshes – Properly managed cranberry marshes not only aid the state’s economy, they are also an asset to the state’s environment and have a positive effect on wetlands, providing desirable wildlife habitats. We oppose the repeal of Section 94.26 of the Wisconsin State Statutes, which allows the construction of dams and drains and the diversion of water for cranberry culture.
Climate and Global Warming Initiatives - We support the continued study of the affects and impacts of climate change on our environment and encourage the development of sound management practices that are reasonable, affordable, and effective.
Immigrant Labor – Many Wisconsin agribusinesses contract with immigrant workers. We support reasonable, affordable improvements in state and federal laws that create opportunities for both immigrants and legal aliens to obtain employment in the production and processing of Wisconsin agricultural commodities. We oppose any changes that would cause Wisconsin businesses major expenses that are not reasonable, affordable or required in neighboring states.
LIVESTOCK & CROPS
Interstate Shipment of Meat – We support the prompt implementation of this program.
State Standards for Livestock Siting – We support statewide, science-based standards, with the use of best management practices, for the siting of livestock operations to be implemented by local units of government.
Animal ID – We support the implementation of a federal animal identification and information System.
Bio-Security – We support the efforts of the state and federal government to ensure that safeguards have been established and are utilized to limit the risk of disease transmission. We also support the efforts of WARN to communicate more effectively between Ag industry constituents, regulatory agencies, and the consumers in a food or bio-security incident.
Manure Management – We support the funding for research and development of innovative manure management technologies.
Producer Security Program – We support the review and restructure of the Wisconsin’s Producer Security Program.
Working Lands Initiative – We support those fiscally responsible initiatives that promote, protect and facilitate both stewardship and the growth and prosperity of production agriculture.
Eminent Domain Act – Eminent domain laws should not be used to confiscate private property for private uses or private gain.
Purchase of Prime Agricultural Land - We encourage the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to compete for the purchase of prime agricultural soils for the sole conversion to recreational purposes.
Ag Tourism – We support the development of an agricultural tourism program through the Wisconsin Department of Tourism that will support the expansion of agricultural tourism in the State of Wisconsin.
Antitrust Laws - In order to maintain a free and fair marketing system, all raw commodity producers must have a choice in where they market their production. We support full enforcement of current antitrust laws concerning mergers in agriculture-related industries.
Product Labeling Uniformity – We support reasonable, uniform labeling and nutrition information as well as equal quality standards and restrictions for food imported from other countries.
Disparagement - We recommend passage of disparagement laws that would allow courts to grant relief to those who produce or market any agricultural commodities if they suffer damage as a result of another person’s or organizations unfounded or false claims that a product isn’t fit for human consumption, or that the animals from which the commodity was derived were raised by improper methods.
Savor Wisconsin - To aid in the marketing of Wisconsin agricultural products, we support the use of the Savor Wisconsin Web site and the Something Special from Wisconsin program.
Tourist Oriented Directional Signs – We support making changes to the state’s transportation laws to allow seasonal farm markets to put up directional signs along federal and state aid highways.
Marketing Education – We encourage the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences or UW-Extension to recognize the importance of marketing and research development and to appoint or add a position to meet this need.
Fuel Tax – We support the current fuel tax exemption for farm machinery.
Property Taxes –We urge continued efforts to reduce the reliance on the property tax. In addition, we support the continuation of the Farmland Use Value Assessment law.
Federalized Wisconsin Depreciation – We support the uniformity of Wisconsin’s depreciation laws with federal depreciation laws.
Federalized Retirement Plans - We support the uniformity of Wisconsin’s retirement plans with federal retirement plans.
Investment Tax Credits – We support maintaining and expanding the Dairy, Livestock, Milk Processing, and Meat Processing Investment Tax Credit. In addition we also support the expansion of these investments to other areas of agricultural production..
Tax Credits for Health Savings Accounts – We support the federalization of income tax credits for medical savings accounts and health savings accounts.
Governmental Lapses – We believe that fees collected should be used for intended purposes only and should not be raided or transferred for other applications.
Biotechnology – We support the continued development and research of biotechnology as it relates to the growth, improvement, and well-being of Wisconsin’s agriculture and its citizens.
Genetically Enhanced Products - We support research on and the availability of genetically enhanced products and urge lawmakers and regulators to protect the producer’s right to use these USDA/FDA approved products and technologies.
Agriculture in Wisconsin depends on the combination of roads, water, air, and railroad transportation to move its products to end markets and to compete in an ever-expanding global marketplace. We support the state’s continued commitment to keeping our roads in good condition and expanding the Freight Rail Rehab Program in the state.
River locks and dams - The demand for American goods and grain requires modern barge tows more than 1,100 feet in length. Most of the current locks and dams date back more than 60 years and are only 600 feet long. This means tows must break in half and "double lock" to get through, increasing locking time and expense by nearly 3 times what it should be. We support the Water Resource Development Act to increase the size of locks on rivers in order to decrease locking time and allow more efficient river navigation.
Vehicle Weight Limits/Fees –We urge the state to reexamine the current limits, restrictions and fees and revise unnecessary and burdensome regulations. Current regulations should reflect industry standards for truck trailer weight, length and size.
Commercial Drivers License: We are concerned about the amount of time it will take a driver to be qualified to do seasonal work. We will continue to monitor the regulations as it relates to hazardous material endorsement.
County Fairs – County fairs continue to be a positive educational force in every Wisconsin County. We urge the Legislature to continue to fund county fairs at sustainable levels.
Drainage District Disclosure - We urge the Legislature to pass legislation requiring real-estate disclosure forms to include whether or not a property is in a drainage district.
Right to Farm – With the increase of urban sprawl and more people moving to rural areas there is a need to protect Wisconsin farmers’ right to farm. We support the Right to Farm Law that protects farmers (including forestry and specialty enterprises) from frivolous nuisance suits and governmental actions when the farming operation is following state laws and regulations. We recommend that deeds in agricultural community’s state that property is located in an agricultural zone and therefore has the associated sounds, smells, etc. that is part of that community.
Wildlife Damage Program – Wisconsin’s record wildlife populations are causing extensive damage in many areas of the state. We urge that legislation be enacted to allow farmers to reduce the wildlife population so that crop and livestock damage might be lowered to acceptable levels. We oppose the use of Wildlife Damage Program funds for any purpose other than their original intent.
Insurance – We support an affordable and available health insurance program to meet the needs of the Wisconsin agricultural industry. We support the Farmers Health Cooperative Program and other initiatives to address this issue. We also support eliminating the depreciation add-back to income for determining Badger Care Eligibility.