Wisconsin has an opportunity to act on climate initiatives that would increase the resilience of the state’s farmers while providing climate change benefits, according to the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change Report that was released Dec. 9.

The report includes 55 climate solutions across nine sectors that will lay the foundation for the state to better adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, while also seeking environmental justice and economic opportunities in renewable energy and conservation, according to a Dec. 9 news release from Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, chairman of the task force.

Gov. Tony Evers created the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change in October 2019 and appointed Barnes to chair the task force.

“Climate change is an imminent threat to our state, our economy, and our kids’ future,” Evers said. “We can’t ignore the reality facing our state, our country, and our world, and we have a lot of work to do to start meaningfully addressing climate change in Wisconsin.”

Over the last year, the task force worked to identify strategies to combat climate change by studying recent science and data, learning from Native Nations, farmers, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and local governments that are already taking action to address the crisis, and, most importantly, listening to the experiences of Wisconsinites — particularly those of communities that have been excluded from policymaking in the past, Barnes said.

“The climate crisis is taking a toll on everyone in our state, but communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to face the harshest impacts of climate change, despite contributing the least to the problem,” he said. “In order to address this crisis and the environmental injustices associated with it, we must take urgent action, and we must ensure those actions are equitable and inclusive — anything less will continue the long pattern of environmental racism we have witnessed in this country.”

The solutions in the report range from the creation of a state office to address environmental injustices, green job training programs for displaced and marginalized workers, funding to help farmers adopt more sustainable practices, reimplementing transportation policies that promote clean, alternative methods of transportation, and statutory changes to help the energy sector transition to cleaner energy production.

The task force brought together a diverse coalition of farmers, environmental advocates, Indigenous leaders, and business executives, representing different perspectives, communities, and industries, according to Barnes. These members worked collaboratively over the course of the year, uniting around the shared goal of making Wisconsin a cleaner, safer, and more equitable state.

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection Secretary-designee Randy Romanski served on the task force along with several other representatives from Wisconsin’s agriculture community.

“Our farmers are an important part of addressing climate change. They’re part of the solution,” Romanski said during a Dec. 9 web conference with agricultural media.

Strategies addressed in the agricultural section of the report include: supporting farmer-led watershed groups; paying farmers to increase soil carbon storage in agricultural and working lands; avoiding conversion of natural working lands; and making managed grazing livestock production systems an agricultural priority.

“The report is pretty extensive, but it draws upon and builds upon some of the solutions that are already in place or are being considered in the state of Wisconsin,” Romanski said. “For instance, (the report talks about) providing additional support to producer-led watershed groups which are vital to soil and water health, ... and something that our agency already works very hard on, avoiding conversion of natural working farm lands.”

The food-system section of the report focuses on supporting local farms and producers and connecting Wisconsin foods with Wisconsin consumers through things like the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program and the Farm to School Initiative, Romanski said.

“Those provisions are kind of near and dear to DATCP’s heart. They are items that the governor has continued to request additional resources towards,” Romanski said. “We appreciate the task force taking a look at a wide variety of options again, and I’m happy that agriculture was part of the discussion.”

To read the full report, visit https://climatechange.wi.gov.