Gov. Tony Evers recently announced that he wants to invest more than $43 million in his biennial budget in Wisconsin’s agricultural economy.
One of the goals of the funding is to expand market opportunities — such as connecting Wisconsin farmers and producers with food banks,to help feed families experiencing food insecurity.
Another goal is supporting farmers’ mental health.
Krista Knigge says farmers in Wisconsin have faced multiple struggles in the industry in the last few years. She’s the Administrator of the Division of Agricultural Development at the state Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection.
“Farmers have dealt with low commodity prices, trade instability, bad weather and now a pandemic. So, all of those things compound and understandably creates some anxiety for farmers,” says Kingge. “And what we’re trying to do is create some programming that can help deal with that. What we’re trying to do is trying to support farmers and help them in their business environment and helping with their mental health where they are today.”
Knigge says the Wisconsin Farm Center is one of the support systems. Some of its core programming includes financial planning, assistance to veteran farmers and outreach. It also offers a 24/7 farmer wellness hotline and telecounseling sessions.
She says the governor’s plans would amplify that programming. “Ultimately, we want to make sure farmers stay farming and if we can help them through some of these budget initiatives we are happy to do that,” she says.
Knigge says additional funding would allow the flexibility to create and adjust programing. She hopes it also would help more people become aware of the services available.
Gov. Evers presents his biennial budget proposal Tuesday night. The Democrat’s spending plan then goes to the Republican-controlled Legislature.