Every year there are plenty of issues Wisconsin farmers have to deal with, and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Deputy Secretary Jeff Lyon says this year’s focus includes legislation on air permits, wetlands, and road weight limits. But there’s more. “You’ve got so many legislators that don’t have that agriculture background … so many generations they’ve been removed from the farm.”
Lyon is worried a recent status report could be misconstrued. University of Wisconsin-Madison economists say Wisconsin farmers as a whole earned a record high net farm income of $2.4 billion last year. This was up about $350 million from 2010 and three times the 2009 level. “Legislators are going to read those headlines and say everything must be just great in production agriculture, but you need to read a little farther in that report and find out that they had an extra billion dollars in expenses, as well.”
Lyon says it’s important for farmers to talk to their legislators to tell them the real story and give input of pending legislation as it impacts their farm. He says the budget cuts are tough, from both the state and federal governments, but they’re dealing with it. Lyon says there’s a real willingness among his counterparts in other agencies — including the Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources — to work together.
Deputy Secretary Lyon is working on job creation in the Ag industry — helping farmers with such things as modernization, expansion, and business planning. However, Lyon also wants to bring awareness to what DATCP encompasses. “There’s a lot of people that don’t understand … we touch the lives of every citizen in the state of Wisconsin. When you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night.”
Agriculture is almost a $60 billion industry in Wisconsin, nearly half of which comes from dairy. The agency also comprises of consumer complaints, food safety, the No Call list, weights and measures, pest control, and firewood — just to name a few.
Lyon expects social networking sites to play a huge role in getting the word out about DATCP. “Trying to do some video stuff … twitter … facebook … so many different generations out there that you’re trying to communicate with.”
The agency is also keeping an eye on potential legislation creating a sandhill crane hunting season, which aims to reduce damage to corn crops.
AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 3:20