WisBusiness: Ag interests looking for frugality from legislators

By Tracy Will

For WisBusiness.com

During today’s Ag Day at the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin farm groups told state legislators to “be frugal.”

“Stop spending money you don’t have. That’s the message to tell your legislators today,” Farm Bureau President Bill Bruins told 500 farm-group representatives. “If we are spending more than we make, we got to stop that. We need to be fiscally frugal.”

Bruins reminded farmers about all the trouble they’d faced and why they mattered to state legislators.

“The ratio in agriculture is 98 consumers compared to two producers. Agriculture is one of the main economic engines in the state of Wisconsin, bringing in $50 (billion) to $60 billion dollars a year,” Bruins told the crowd, urging them to tell legislators to “keep use-value property tax assessment in place. Please tell your legislators to oppose any changes in that law.”

Bruins told farmers that to protect farmland, farmers need to convince legislators to revise extra-territorial zoning laws in order to keep farmland in production and development under control.

“Many counties in the state need to develop land-use plans to determine where they want to develop and where they want to preserve land for agriculture,” Bruins said.

Rod Nilsestuen, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, told the crowd the meat and milk production incentives in Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget plan were something long overdue.

“If it’s a felony to attack an Italian sausage at Miller Park, the professional team football team in Green Bay is named the Packers, we ought to be treating this industry the way it deserves to be treated,” Nilsestuen said.

He also said he would be meeting with Doyle administration leaders to see what the omnibus spending bill approved and signed this week meant for Wisconsin.

“We know our southern friends are elbowing to the head of the line. We want to make certain Wisconsin is treated equitably in this,” Nilsestuen said.