When Dane County Executive Joe Parisi signed the 2019 Dane County Budget earlier this month, the $630.1 million proposal not only offered property tax relief for Dane County residents, but also provided new resources for agriculture and rural Dane County.

The 2019 budget includes over $52,000 to restore a state funding cut that left Dane County without a dairy and livestock educator at its UW-Extension. The state’s actions left Dane County’s dairy farmers without a local resource to turn to during the most challenging time for the industry since the 1980s, a time when many family farms faced the undesirable decision of shutting down, selling, or taking on additional jobs.

The county budget also builds on the work Dane County is doing to recover from the late summer floods that devastated so many communities, and improves the overall health of the county’s chain of lakes.

“Agriculture remains the backbone of Dane County’s economic identity, but our local agriculture industry has faced trying times, particularly our dairy industry,” said Parisi. “I’m proud to introduce a budget that provides additional support and continues the important partnerships that have helped improve our county’s quality of life.”

The budget also creates a brand new Dane County Conservation Reserve Program to help convert lands at a greater risk of run-off into prairies and grasses that can hold more soil and keep water where it lands. The new $750,000 program will pay farmers and property owners to convert portions of their lands to this permanent cover.

Partnerships formed between the county and its farmers in the area of manure processing and treatment have been integral to local efforts to reduce phosphorus run-off into lakes and methane emissions into the air. Work by the Dane County Climate Change Council has shed new light onto the important role that manure digesters can play in these areas, and has identified key areas where new digesters could help. The county budget includes $200,000 to help prepare design specifications for these additional digesters.

New innovations in the creation of renewable fuels from manure digesters, supported in Parisi’s previous budgets, are set to come online in 2019. With the construction of a new bio-gas facility at the County’s landfill, the day is nearing when gas generated from manure will be turned into millions of dollars a year in revenue — good news for the environment, and for the economic future of multi-generational dairy farms.

The county budget will take effect on Jan. 1. More information can be found online at https://admin.countyofdane.com/budget.