MADISON — A proposed bill to create a UW Dairy Innovation Hub will move forward in the 2019-21 Wisconsin budget process after Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee approved it on a 12-4 party-line vote last Tuesday, June 11.
The Joint Finance Committee earmarked $8.8 million for the University of Wisconsin System proposal over two years, which would add researchers at the system’s three agricultural colleges: UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls. The research would focus on land and water use, human health and nutrition, animal health and welfare, and farm businesses and rural communities.
The original bill provided $7.9 million annually to the UW System to increase offerings at these institutions and was authored by Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, with support from Reps. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, and Tony Kurtz, R-Wonewoc.
Many agricultural organizations applauded the bill’s approval by the committee, including the Dairy Business Association and Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. It has gained support from numerous others too.
“We have been fortunate to be home to the world’s leading dairy research for decades through the University of Wisconsin System,” said Tom Crave, president of the Dairy Business Association and a farmer and cheesemaker in south-central Wisconsin. “It has been great to see the bipartisan support this proposal has enjoyed as members of both parties have shown their support for increased dairy research.
“The approval by the Joint Finance Committee demonstrates an understanding of this vital component to long-term success for Wisconsin’s dairy community.”
“Wisconsin is already recognized as a dairy superpower, and this is a reinvestment to reprioritize dairy innovation,” said Dr. Wayne Weber, dean of the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture at UW-Platteville. “This will increase the capacity to help the farmers meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
“There are huge amounts of opportunities here to positively impact the farms of southwest Wisconsin and in turn, have an impact statewide, nationally and globally.”
Additionally, a joint statement from UW Deans Weber; Dale Gallenberg, College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, UW-River Falls; and Kate VandenBosch, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UW-Madison, included acknowledgement of those who supported funding for the Dairy Innovation Hub, which they called “an investment that will generate new discoveries by attracting the world’s best talent to Wisconsin and by providing the tools and resources for making important new discoveries to benefit the dairy industry.”
The Dairy Innovation Hub was among 51 recommendations of the Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0, a joint effort between the UW System and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to identify ways to keep the dairy community viable in the state.
With approval from the Joint Finance Committee, the budget plan now moves to the Legislature, where it will need approval from both the Assembly and Senate before heading to the governor.
The committee also adopted provisions for Wisconsin agriculture that included the approval of three additional positions to support the hemp program, including one-time funding of $300,000 for testing equipment; funding for farmer mental health assistance; the addition of four new positions to regulate concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, along with increased funding for CAFO oversight; and increased funding for Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grants.
In a separate motion, the committee also passed funding for multiple state building projects, including a UW Veterinary School proposal for approximately $90 million in state funds for an addition and renovation to the existing Veterinary School in Madison. The state’s land acquisition program, called the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, also received support through a separate motion.
“We are pleased to see several key priorities for Wisconsin farmers included in this proposal budget,” said Karen Gefvert, Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s executive director of governmental relations. “We appreciate the leadership from the members of the Joint Committee on Finance and our agriculture champions.”