Farm relief bills clear Assembly, head for Senate

    CAMBRIDGE, WI - APRIL 25: Cows walk from a barn after being milked on Hinchley's Dairy Farm on April 25, 2017 near Cambridge, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    The state Assembly passed seven bills targeted for farm relief Thursday, sending them to the state Senate to take up when it reconvenes early next month.

    The measures include five bills authored by Legislature Republicans and two authored by Gov. Tony Evers — one of which the Republicans heavily rewrote before advancing it.

    All seven passed the Assembly unanimously. They included:

    • AB-627, adding six agriculture specialists to the University of Wisconsin-Madison  Extension, at a cost of $1 million. 
    • AB-873, creating a tax credit worth up to $7,500 for a portion of the tax levied on farm buildings and other improvements. The credit, which ends after the 2022 tax year, will cost about $27.3 million. 
    • AB-874, directing an evaluation of UW System agriculture program.
    • AB-875, increasing the limits under existing law for what self-employed people, including farmers, who pay for their own medical insurance, can offset from their income tax bill. The measure is estimated to cost about $9.5 million.
    • AB-876, directing a study of UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences programs.
    • Special Session AB-6, an Evers-authored bill rewritten through a Republican substitute amendment directing the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection along with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to develop an agriculture promotional program for dairy, plant crops and meat products. Through another amendment, lawmakers set export increase goals for each category and a deadline of Dec. 31, 2030, to meet them.
    • Special Session AB-7, an Evers-authored bill requiring DATCP to give smaller dairy processing plants preference under an existing state promotional grant program.
    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.