by Benjamin Yount
Lawmakers in Madison are looking send a lot more of Wisconsin’s agricultural products around the globe.
The Joint Committee on Finance on Tuesday approved a $5 million, five-year plan that orders the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to come-up with a plan to increase ag exports in Wisconsin by 25%.
“Wisconsin produces about $105 of agricultural products every year,” Rep. Tony Kurtz R-Wonewoc explained. “But, unfortunately, we only export about three percent. So, only about $3 billion a year.”
Kurtz wants to see that number grow exponentially.
So do Wisconsin’s farmers and farm groups.
Chad Zuleger with Wisconsin’s Dairy Business Association said there is more than enough room to grow Wisconsin’s dairy exports, particularly cheese exports.
“The high demand in the specialty cheese market at home, but particularly abroad, creates a great opportunity for Wisconsin dairy processors,” Zuleger explained. “The United States exports just five percent of cheese. Wisconsin farmers and processors stand ready to increase that.”
Kurtz said a similar ag-export plan unanimously passed the legislature earlier this year, and said this plan has broad bipartisan support.
The only opposition on Tuesday came from Wisconsin’s Ag Secretary who wants the planning, and the money for that planning, to run through his department.
“We believe the most effective way to accomplish the goals we all share for Wisconsin’s agricultural exports is to place the funding at DATCP, where the structure and relationships already exist to utilize these resources,” Wisconsin Ag Secretary Randy Romanski told lawmakers.
The proposal requires DATCP and WEDC to develop their plan by the end of 2021. Romanski said it will be a stretch to have the report finished in time.
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