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State News: Wolf Hunting, Farmers on Trump

Farmers Weigh In On Trump’s Progress

As President Donald Trump marks his first year in office this month, Wisconsin farmers disagree on whether the administration has done enough to address rural needs. Trump talked about trade, tax cuts and expanding broadband access during a speech at the American Farm Bureau convention last week in Nashville,

Tennessee. It’s the first time in 25 years a president has spoken at the event for farmers and ranchers.

But Kara O’Connor, government relations director for the Wisconsin Farmers Union, said the speech didn’t ease her concerns. “Trump made a lot of promises in his speech about trade and a variety of other topics, but I think the actual record over the past year is more telling,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor said the administration has lacked a clear vision for international trade and has yet to address problems with the Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP), a U.S. Department of Agriculture safety net program that provides payments to dairy producers if milk prices fall below a certain level. Many of the state’s producers feel the program hasn’t helped them deal with low prices during the last few years.

Some farmers do believe the Trump administration is working to address the needs of rural communities, especially on infrastructure. The president signed an executive order and a memorandum at the convention aimed at improving access to rural broadband. Katy Schultz, a dairy farmer on the Professional Dairy Producers Board of Directors, said internet access is crucial for Wisconsin farmers to stay competitive. “Having a limitation or a lack of internet access really does leave those farmers at a disadvantage, not only in their management style but their technological capabilities at their own farm,” Schultz said.

While Trump celebrated the tax overhaul that was passed at the end of 2017 during his speech this week, O’Connor said a new USDA report found not everyone will benefit from the changes. “While the wealthiest farmers will benefit from the Trump tax plan, farmers with modest incomes will actually be worse off,” O’Connor said.

 

Wolf Hearing Heats Up

A public hearing held Dec. 10 on an Assembly bill that would block enforcement and investigation of illegal wolf killings began with Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, taking aim at the absence of the bill’s author. Milroy said he was disgusted that Rep. Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake, could not be present for the public hearing on Assembly Bill 712.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a committee hearing in my life where the lead author of the bill has not shown up for the public hearing,” said Milroy. “There’s some speculation that the whole reason for this bill is because the author of the bill is running for another office right now and the election is next week.” Milroy called Jarchow’s absence a political ploy and accused the lawmaker of colluding with Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc. A legislative aide for Jarchow said a scheduling conflict prevented the lawmaker from attending.

The measure would prohibit state wardens or law enforcement officers from sharing information with federal law enforcement regarding enforcement of any state or federal law related to wolves, including evidence of any illegal wolf killings.

Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, questioned the companion Senate bill author Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, whether the legislation would lead to illegal killings.

“Aren’t you giving free license to people — at least as far as the state’s concerned — to violate both state and federal law?”

Tiffany argued against any notion that “sportsmen are just going to go out and start banging away at wolves.” He told the committee it’s the federal government’s responsibility to manage wolf populations.

“They should hire the staff necessary to review these things if they believe it’s that important,” said Tiffany.

The state held its first wolf hunt in 2012 after the wolf was delisted in 2011. However, state management of the wolf ended in Dec. 2014 when a federal judge ruled it should be placed back on the endangered species list in the western Great Lakes states.

The bill would also prevent the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources from spending money to manage wolves except for reimbursement for depredation of livestock or dogs. Last year, Wisconsin paid out close to $200,000 to farms, individuals and hunters for damage related to wolves.

 

Lawmakers Concerned About Millennial Campaign

Business owners gathered Wednesday in the state Capitol to support a bill aimed at bringing more young workers to Wisconsin, while some lawmakers expressed concerns about the plan. Under the proposal, which Gov. Scott Walker lauded late last year, the state would spend $6.8 million on a marketing campaign aimed at luring millennials, University of Wisconsin System graduates, and veterans to Wisconsin.

“The biggest challenge that we’re facing right now in terms of growth is people, the equipment is there, the work is there, but people are by far the biggest issue — finding qualified candidates to do the jobs that we have available at our company,” Adam Tegelman, director of operations for MCC Incorporated, a concrete paving company in Appleton, said at a public hearing Wednesday on the bill.

Tegelman said more than half of his company’s workers are more than 50 years old, but he thinks millennials would be interested in jobs there because of the company’s benefits and opportunities for advancement.

The state’s marketing campaign would focus on things such as shorter commute times in Wisconsin, compared to urban areas in neighboring states, and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. launched a similar, $1 million campaign this week.

The bill has yet to be voted on in committee. The governor has said he hopes it will be approved by the end of this legislative session, which is scheduled to wrap up in early May, at the latest.

 

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2018, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.

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