Wisconsin’s Food System
We should produce abundant foods using sustainable methods in order to benefit both consumers and producers, and which will be resilient in the face of change.
Farmers and Farming
Wisconsin farmers should make a decent living, enabling them to contribute to a safe, abundant, nutritious and affordable food supply while sustaining natural resources and strengthening their communities. The State can help shape policy, build and maintain infrastructure, and provide incentives to advance that vision. We need to develop a more effective system of price supports -- or insurance -- that protects farmers from the vagaries of weather, disease, and fluctuations created by changes in import/export policies and tariffs.
The state must have a governor and administration that thinks out the consequences of providing financial incentives designed to increase production. For example, will increased production lead to oversupply and lower prices putting all producers at risk?
Support Grassroots Efforts
The State of Wisconsin should support a network of regional statewide food policy councils to promote coordination among stakeholder groups on local food system issues. We can start by building on existing public markets, farmers markets, and cooperative efforts. While these markets can capture retail dollars from tourists and those interested in prepared food, the emphasis should be on providing producers a reliable outlet of fresh nutritious food to consumers.
Incentivize Sustainable Food Production
I will work with the agricultural community to conduct a systematic review of Wisconsin’s laws and regulations. We will make necessary changes to incentivize farming practices that reduce erosion, use water efficiently, improve soil health, reduce runoff, promote regional food systems, shorten food transportation distances, promote diversified, climate-change hearty crop cultivation, reduce greenhouse gases, and diversify the regional supply chain.
Fresh potable water in our rivers, streams, lakes and aquifers is a high priority for both urban and rural residents. To protect our water, we must collaborate with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to reduce contamination by phosphorus, nitrates, salts, as well as herbicides and pesticides and other pollutants or runoff.
Build a Better Department of Natural Resources
I am strongly committed to de-politicizing the DNR, so that it can become a robust, independent monitor of environmental laws, regulations, and permitting procedures that protect our free flowing water, ground water, and air. We must ensure adequate staffing levels to support aggressive monitoring and enforcement.
Create a Climate Adaptation Plan for Agriculture
I understand that Wisconsin’s agricultural system will continue to face profound, growing impacts from climate change. Preparing for these changes is urgent and essential. I will work with the agricultural community to create a comprehensive Agricultural Climate Adaptation Plan. The plan will be based on a view of farms and fields as integrated, bio- diverse landscapes and will:
- address necessary and ambitious changes in the agricultural system overall;
- include locally focused adaptation strategies;
- provide technical and financial support for farmers working to implement effective adaptations;
- identify necessary investments in adaptive agricultural infrastructure;
- assign specific implementation responsibilities; and
- create specific resources to implement planned strategies.
Strengthen Agriculturally Related Transit and Internet
I am committed to creating and maintaining a healthy highway infrastructure that includes rural roadways and provides for the transport of agricultural products and the movement of modern agricultural equipment while incentivizing freight optimization and the creation of low-emission long-haul vehicles. Again, everyone in Wisconsin must have access to high-speed broadband.
Support Local Control, Especially Regulating CAFOs
As a longtime mayor, I strongly support local control of siting decisions for industrial livestock operations or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). I will work to ensure the right of local governments to exceed state standards and requirements when it is best for their residents.
CAFOs can create a terrible burden on town and county roads. Just as urban developers must pay for infrastructure, counties should be able to require CAFOs to pay for the increased road costs associated with their trucks. In addition, counties should be able to require security deposits or bonds from CAFOs to guarantee clean up, should they go out of business.
In addition, I will work to strengthen the rights of local governments to regulate GMO and pesticide use.
Create Fair Redress for GMO and Pesticide Drift
I support the enactment of state laws that strengthen the rights of organic farmers to seek fair redress for GMO and pesticide drift that contaminates their lands and destroys the value of their products.
Enlarge the Buy Local Buy Wisconsin Grant Program
We must expand our Buy Local programs. It is estimated that as little as 5% of the food consumed in Wisconsin is produced here. Nutritious food costs more but we can start by reopening school kitchens and providing fresh meals, not frozen, empty calories from out of state.
I will triple the annual expenditure (from $200,000 to $600,000) for the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection’s Buy Local Buy Wisconsin Grant program. This program has demonstrated its ability to increase local food sales, stimulate investment, and preserve and create jobs while keeping profits in Wisconsin.
Promote Sensible Food Recovery
I will support the development of robust food recovery systems and services including intelligent policies concerning food donation and diversion efforts for farm fresh foods.
Become a Responsible Consumer
The State of Wisconsin purchases a lot of food for its prisons, juvenile facilities, colleges and universities, office and service buildings, healthcare facilities, as well as meetings and conferences. The state should systematically review its purchasing policies and procedures to incentivize the development of supply chains grounded in local and regional sustainable food producers.
Lift Up Urban Agriculture
As governor, I will ensure urban agriculture can expand and thrive. These are a few of the steps I will take:
- Require the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to establish an Office of Urban Agriculture to promote, coordinate, and support the development of urban farming.
- Review and revise state building codes to ensure supportive policies that properly identify, permit, and regulate urban agriculture, including emerging indoor gardening approaches such as hydroponics, vertical gardens, aquaponics, and greenhouses.
- Consider model statutes that have been effective in California, Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas and Utah to incentivize the development of urban agricultural zones via permissive changes in property appraisals and related cropland rate taxation for urban parcels placed in agricultural use.