Agriculture contributes nearly $105 billion annually to Wisconsin’s economy and provides jobs for more than 435,000 people. As my colleagues and I crafted the budget that will guide our state through the next two years, one of our top priorities was keeping our farm economy strong.
Farmers are masters at producing greater yields with fewer inputs; we’re focused on making it easier for them to get their products from their fields to the store shelves. We’re targeting $150 million specifically for our farm-to-market roads in rural Wisconsin. That’s part of a total of $362 million for local roads and bridges, and in addition to $386 million dedicated to funding Wisconsin highways. It’s all part of a legislative budget that borrows $90 million less than the Governor’s proposal, but invests over $600 million more than originally suggested in our transportation infrastructure.
We’re strengthening agricultural supply chains in other ways too. We’re investing in meat processor and dairy processor grants as well as increasing funding for the agricultural export program that we launched in last session’s budget. We’re helping Wisconsin farmers move their products from the farm to the processor, across the nation, and around the world.
There are more than 10,000 designated Century Farms in Wisconsin – properties that have been owned by one family for more than one hundred years. Many of these are still actively engaged in agricultural production. This demonstrates what great stewards of the land our farmers are. They depend on clean soil and water for their way of life, and that makes them excellent partners for preserving our environment. The legislature’s budget invests in a nitrogen optimization program that will help lower costs for farmers and improve soil and water health. In addition, we’re supporting producer-led watershed programs and investing $7 million for soil and water resource management grants.
We’re also allocating money to combat PFAS. PFAS, of course, refers to the forever chemical whose most common source is firefighting foam. $125 million will be dedicated to cleaning up contamination and improving water quality.
This budget goes the distance for our farmers, our roads, and our natural resources.