Caught in the middle of political power plays in the Wisconsin Capitol is a dangerous place to be — and it’s a spot that could cost Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-designee Brad Pfaff his job.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced last week that Republican senators plan to effectively fire Pfaff by voting no on his confirmation, after he’s been serving in the job since January.
Gov. Tony Evers shot back that Fitzgerald’s plan to fire Pfaff was poorly timed, just as Wisconsin farmers are suffering, dairyfarms are going under, and federal trade war tensions are escalating.
And it won’t happen, it appears, if Wisconsin farmers have anything to say about it. Letters of support have been flowing in to senators and the governor defending and recommending Pfaff.
One of the most heartfelt and forthright came from Shane Goplin, president of the Trempealeau County Farm Bureau and Ed Rippley, president of the Buffalo County Farm Bureau.
“Let me start off by saying thank you for taking the time to read this letter and also for all you do for the great State of Wisconsin. It is now corn drying season and as I sit in our little grain shack drying corn around the clock, I have time to get up to date on current events,” the Nov. 3 letter began. “The other day I came across an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the fact that Secretary Designee Brad Pfaff may not have the votes to be confirmed. In a nutshell, my heart sank! That article is the reason for this letter. I have known Mr. Pfaff for a number of years, but it wasn’t until last February that I was able to find out what a truly genuine person he really is. On behalf of the Trempealeau and Buffalo County Farm Bureau’s, please allow us to tell you about the Brad Pfaff we know; the champion that farmers depend on and the leader that Wisconsin agriculture needs.”
The two go on to describe the snow and ice that were piling up this past February, as “high winds created snow drifts that put incredible stress on barns and sheds,” which caused many to collapse in their counties, causing extreme stress for farmers trying to move livestock around. So they invited Pfaff to visit “to witness first hand the hardships some of our local farmers were going through. When he agreed, it was such a sense of relief to tell a few of these farmers that they mattered and that the whole state of Wisconsin was thinking about them! These farmers were in a mental state that we have never seen before.”
Goplin and Rippley met Pfaff in Arcadia and describe the look on Pfaff’s face “when he witnessed first hand the aftermath of what was a nightmare these farmers were going through.” They had scheduled meetings with a number of farmers and his office had said Pfaff would be there all morning, but needed to leave by noon. By noon, as the letter describes it, they had only visited two farms because he was listening intently and taking time with everyone on the farms.
“As a testament to not only who Brad is as a Secretary Designee, but to who Brad is as a person, he insisted on visiting the rest of the farms we had scheduled no matter how long it took to visit. Nearly four hours after we said Brad would be done, we finally got him back on the road.”
Goplin and Rippley conclude with a plea to state senators to confirm Pfaff: “As Wisconsin farmers, and leaders of our county Farm Bureau’s, we ask that you vote in favor of confirming Brad Pfaff to be our Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture. Given the mental and financial hardships a lot of Wisconsin farmers are going through at the current time, we feel it is vital that we keep him in place. Once again, on behalf of the Trempealeau and Buffalo County Farm Bureau, thank you for taking the time to read our message and we would be very grateful if you would vote yes to confirm Brad Pfaff.”
These Farm Bureau leaders joined a number of farm groups that are pushing hard for Pfaff to be confirmed. Other letters of support have come in from The Dairy Business Association, Organic Valley farming cooperative, Wisconsin Agri-Business Association, The Cooperative Network, the Wisconsin Land+Water Conservation Association, the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, as well as U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind.
Pfaff previously worked as the state executive director for the Farm Service Agency in Wisconsin and the national deputy administrator for farm programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as working for Kind. Noted Kind in his statement: ““As a kid who grew up on a family farm in Wisconsin, no one understands the challenges that our family farms face or the work that needs to be done to revitalize our state more than Brad Pfaff. Brad has dedicated his life to ensuring Wisconsin farmers, workers, and families have the tools they need to succeed. At a time when three Wisconsin dairy farms are closing a day, it’s a no-brainer to have Brad Pfaff leading the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Any decision otherwise isn’t putting the best interest of our farmers or our state first.”