Dear Members of the Wisconsin Joint Committee on Finance,
Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) is a 2,000+ family farm member-driven organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities and all people through educational opportunities, cooperative endeavors and civic engagement.
WFU’s budget priorities are based on policy adopted by members at our convention and on the unforeseen challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate you considering the following priorities for the 2021-23 state budget:
Perhaps the most important lesson of 2020 is that healthcare is a public, not private issue. WFU has long supported a national policy of universal healthcare and expanded public health insurance at the state level. Expanding BadgerCare in the next budget will provide coverage to those who need it most while building support for broader healthcare reform. And importantly, accepting federal funds to expand BadgerCare will alleviate some of the strain on the budget.
WFU has long supported a fair and nonpartisan process for drawing legislative districts. We support Governor Evers’ proposal to require a transparent redistricting process within the state budget and we support the work of the People’s Maps Commission.
WFU members expressed the need for expanded meat processing infrastructure even before the pandemic caused supply chain disruptions. WFU is advocating for loans and grants for new meat processors and existing small plants to fund facility upgrades, cutting equipment, and cold storage to increase processing capacity, as well as additional state meat inspectors as needed to accommodate growth in processing infrastructure.
WFU was pleased to see Governor Evers declare 2021 as the Year of Broadband Access in his State of the State Address and propose a $200 million investment in broadband over the biennium. With the pandemic leading to more people working and learning from home, access to the internet is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. WFU is advocating for broadband expansion grants and targeted pandemic relief funds to expand rural broadband access across the state. We support directing funds toward small telecommunications companies and cooperatives as a way of promoting economic competition and supporting businesses that are rooted in their communities.
Ongoing environmental crises like climate change and water pollution must not be ignored as we address the immediate public health and economic crises. WFU is advocating for increased funding for county conservation staffing grants, DNR monitoring and oversight of CAFOs, statewide groundwater testing and mapping, farmland preservation, and producer led watershed grants. We are also calling for a new statewide grazing program and incentives for practices like cover crops, reduced tillage, and diverse crop rotation which help combat climate change.
Thank you for the opportunity to share WFU’s state budget priorities. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues in the Assembly and Senate to move forward these and many other priorities for all Wisconsinites. I have attached this letter as well as additional policy briefs on the above priorities for your reference and am happy to answer any questions you may have.
Cooperatively, Nick Levendofsky Government Relations Director