WED AM News: Study highlights state’s shrinking rural population; Assembly Republicans considering two tax breaks to aid farmers

— The Wisconsin Counties Association’s recent study on rural population trends found that two-thirds of the state’s 46 rural counties lost population between 2010 and 2018, in line with national trends. 

“The good news is Wisconsin is slightly outperforming,” said Dale Knapp, director of research and analytics at the WCA at the group’s Annual Legislative Exchange on Tuesday. 

Only one county in Wisconsin was in the bottom 30 percent of the nation. Thirty-four of Wisconsin’s rural counties are in the middle, which “gives you a better chance to move yourself into growth if you adopt the right policies,” he said.

According to Knapp, Wisconsin’s source of rural population decline differs from the rest of the nation. 

“Nationally, 92 percent of population decline was due to outmigration and 8 percent due to natural decline,” said Knapp. 

In Wisconsin, it’s about fifty-fifty due to outmigration and natural decline, he said. 

Economic impacts of a declining population lead to a shrinking workforce, fewer businesses, fewer jobs, slower income growth and lower net new construction, which affects property tax levels. 

“Those with greater population loss have labor loss of 14 percent over an eight-year period,” said Knapp.

See more: 

— Speaker Robin Vos said Assembly Republicans are considering two tax breaks for farmers as they look for a more “robust” boost for the ag industry than what Gov. Tony Evers has proposed.

Vos, R-Rochester, said Assembly Republicans were looking at a combination of bills they’ve already introduced, new proposals and some of what Evers proposed last month in his State of the State address.

Still, he said the $8.5 million price tag for Evers’ package was probably “too small of an effort” to make a significant difference for struggling farmers.

“We would prefer to be a little bolder in our actions,” Vos said.

Evers welcomed Republican interest in the topic. He said yesterday he’s open to “all sorts of ideas” but would prefer more immediate help for farmers than tax credits that may take a while to collect.

The new ideas from the Assembly include a variation of Vos’ previous call to allow farmers to deduct health insurance costs from their taxes. Vos said the idea would apply to all sole proprietorships, not just farmers, with a price tag of about $9 million.

See more at 

— Members of the Wisconsin Farmers Union agreed on policy priorities for the year, including ramping up antitrust investigations, creating a public option to buy into BadgerCare, and funding greater capacity for meat processing. 

WFU President Darin Von Ruden, who was re-elected to the position at the group’s annual convention, says the event’s policy discussions represent “the democratic process in its purest form.” 

“Farmers from a variety of backgrounds come together to respectfully discuss and come to a consensus on the issues impacting their farms and rural Wisconsin,” he said. 

Other top priorities for the Wisconsin Farmers Union include instituting a new framework for dairy pricing reflecting market demand and price stability. The group is pushing for increased farmer profitability through increased milk prices, while also balancing overproduction and price volatility. 

In a release, the group urges state officials and the U.S. Departments of Justice to “aggressively prosecute violators of antitrust laws,” charging family farms are “bearing the brunt of this injustice” as the industry becomes more concentrated. 

Members of WFU also stressed the importance of having a seat at the table for climate change-related discussions. The group says farmers and rural communities are “uniquely positioned” to meet the goals of any climate change legislation. Farmers can help generate alternative energy and pull excess carbon out of the atmosphere, the release shows. 

See more of the group’s policy priorities: 

See photos from the conference:[email protected]/albums/72157712957643272 

— Three Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would cap a tax credit benefitting manufacturers.

The proposal mirrors a provision in Gov. Tony Evers’ budget that would limit the credit to the first $300,000 of qualified income for a manufacturer.

The Dem co-sponsors say that would generate $295.4 million in new revenue during the current biennium, which the bill would require the state to put toward special education in public schools. The revenue would include $59 million in 2019-20 and $237.4 million in the second year of the budget.

Evers’ 2019-21 budget proposal included a $606.1 million boost in special education funding. But that was pared back to $96.9 million.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point, said 14 percent of those who claim the manufacturing credit are millionaires but take 82 percent of the overall benefit.

“That is money that should be invested in our schools,” Erpenbach said. “Instead of bending to millionaires, this bill will help us be able to give greater relief to property taxpayers across Wisconsin.”

Republicans put in place the manufacturer and ag credit a decade ago. It applies to income derived from manufacturing or agricultural property located in Wisconsin. According to WEDC, the credit amounts to 7.5 percent of “eligible qualified production activities income,” resulting in an effective corporate tax rate of 0.4 percent as of 2016.

During the 2018 campaign, Evers talked about limiting both the ag and manufacturing portion of the credit. In his budget, he proposed the cap on the credit for manufacturers.

Vos said the new Dem proposal would have a “chilling effect” on job creators.

“Now they’re focusing just on hurting manufacturers instead of hurting manufacturers and farmers,” Vos said.

See the Dem release:

–bRepublican lawmakers are touting bills that would fund studies of PFAS pollution, arguing the true extent of contamination “has yet to be determined.” 

In a joint statement, the legislators say their bills would establish specified management zones for PFAS pollution “as a solution to this lack of information.” The bills would also help households affected by the chemical to access clean water by qualifying them for the state’s Well Compensation Grant Program, the statement shows. 

Plus, affected communities would be authorized for state loan programs aimed at upgrading drinking water and wastewater facilities. 

LRB 5179 and LRB 5180 were introduced by Sens. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay and Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon; and Reps. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, Jeff Mursau, R-Crivitz, Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, and Scott Krug, R-Rome. 

“The public data provided in these bills will help the Legislature and the DNR to create more sound policies that protect water bodies, promote public health, and coordinate with our business community and municipal utilities,” they said. 

The legislators also applauded Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, for their separate PFAS bill but added: “No one bill can be the complete solution to PFAS contamination in Wisconsin.” 

See the release: 

— The state Department of Workforce Development has been notified that U.S. Bank is laying off 62 employees at its location in downtown Milwaukee. 

According to the notice, the layoffs are permanent and expected to begin April 6. DWD and regional partner Employ Milwaukee will help out affected workers with resources meant to get them back into the workforce. 

See the notice: 


# DNC Host Committee leaders under investigation for alleged toxic work environment

# Rexnord plans to close Grafton facility, with layoffs to begin in May. Around 200 workers would be affected.

# How Wisconsin universities are dealing with coronavirus outbreak

# Assembly Republicans pledge to go ‘bigger and bolder’ in their plan to help Wisconsin farmers



– Milwaukee Tool sues competitor for ‘misleading’ logo


– WI dairy operations among top NMC dairy quality winners

– Wisconsin’s overall cattle numbers unchanged from last year


– U.S. Bank to eliminate 62 employees at its downtown Milwaukee office  


– State office building anticipated in Milwaukee is still years away from construction

– Assisted living development planned for Milwaukee’s northwest side


– 3 more counties find CWD in wild deer during 2019 hunts


– Wisconsin officials: More youth are considering suicide

– Ascension Wisconsin enters joint venture to develop freestanding imaging centers


– Silicon Pastures takes new direction with Sprecher Brewery investment


– Legal battle heating up over Milwaukee Tool, Milwaukee Leather jackets


– New Sprecher owners acquire brewery building, neighboring office building for $3.2 million


– Democratic convention host committee leaders put on leave


– Buyer pays combined $4.1M for two downtown Milwaukee condo units

– Iowa hotel developer buys land in West Allis

– Apartment building planned near Columbia St. Mary’s on Milwaukee’s East Side


– State ag groups suggest changes to federal hemp rule

– Bill would bend Wisconsin TIF policies to back affordable housing


– Window opens for tribes to seek licenses for internet access


– Hampton Inn & Suites hotel proposed in New Berlin


– Sen. Howard Marklein: The state of agriculture in Wisconsin


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Lawmakers: Focusing in on PFAS pollution in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Farmers Union: Grassroots membership sets policy priorities

Wisconsin Dental Association: Five common, not-so-tooth-friendly kids’ snacks