According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the agricultural industry contributes more than $105 billion a year to the state economy and provides more than 400,000 jobs.
Republican state representatives say the agricultural industry makes up 12 percent of Wisconsin’s workforce and on Monday they introduced legislation to help farmers.
“We’ve had agriculture on our radar for years and years,” said State Rep.Warren Petryk (R-Eleva). “It is our second largest industry. It went up from $88 billion not long ago to $105 billion every year that they contribute to our economy, so as business people, we want to make sure that we reduce regulations and allow people to make as much money as they possibly can.”
Lawmakers say the new bills would help to solve the long term and short term financial shortcomings of the agricultural industry.
“The property tax credit that is going to be taken off of the farm buildings, it is actually going to be a credit through the income tax part of your taxes but it is going to be 66% of the taxable levy, a credit up to $7,500 for every entity,” said State Rep. Treig Pronschinske (R-Eau Claire).
“The small processing plants grant would include a lot of our manufacturers in our area,” Petryk said. “We have small cheese factories and what not and we’re hoping to help them out.”
The legislation is called “new” by republicans and is endorsed by several state agencies.
“It has been endorsed by the farm bureau, the Wisconsin dairy association and multiple other groups have come out so we’re hoping for a lot of support from all our colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” said Petryk.
Democrats disagree, saying Gov. Tony Evers proposed these changes months ago.
“What frustrates me is that we continue to have this, my way or the highway, instead of bringing all of us together and working together,” said State Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire). “The governor was right out there in front of the state of the state suggesting that we pass this package.”
But both sides have the same goal when it comes to Wisconsin’s farmers.
“Bigger, bolder, let’s help our farmers,” said State Rep. Jesse James (R-Altoona).
“I want to be sure we have something long term that sticks us as partners with agriculture and our farmers for the long haul,” Smith said.
The legislation will also include a way for farmers to deduct the cost of healthcare from their income taxes something Petryk says will save farmers thousands of dollars a year.
Now the bill will be sent to the agriculture committee where lawmakers will debate the specifics.