We hope you had an excellent weekend, and that you stayed safe on the snowy and icy roads seen over much of the state.
As always, this week will bring you our weekly Property Taxpayer of the Week, News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin, circulating legislation, your weekly poll responses, and an all new Weekly Member Poll.
As always, we hope you find this weekly report to be interesting and informative. If there are ever any issues that you would like to see included, or if you ever have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week,
A MESSAGE FROM WPT PRESIDENT MIKE MARSCH
Our Thoughts on Hemp
WPT lobbied hard for passage of Wisconsin Act 100, hemp law. It was a major victory for Wisconsin's farm community who desperately need new crop alternatives. At an informational meeting in Eau Claire last week I learned, although we now have the right to grow hemp through a pilot program in Wisconsin, we still need to comply with federal law, which requires very strict regulatory control over hemp production to ensure that hemp THC levels do not exceed .03%.
Brian Kuhn from DATCP did a great job staging the event with a panel of industry experts available for a question and answer period following the presentation. Wisconsin did an excellent job writing Act 100 to ensure growing hemp in Wisconsin can succeed, but without federal reform, I don't think hemp will reach its full potential. It's imperative that federal law regulating production of hemp changes and WPT will do what we can to get this done.
If you are thinking about growing hemp this year be prepared for an extensive application process and to have state and county authorities visit you quite often this summer. It will cost you a minimum of $150 or $5.00 per acre up to $1,000 in fees for the right to plant. You will be participating in what Wisconsin calls a Research Pilot Program which will study growing, cultivating and marketing of industrial hemp. You will be maintaining strict record keeping.
Now for the good news, hemp has the potential to be a very profitable and the market for hemp as a food source continues to grow. Hemp is also very good for the soil, and would be an excellent rotation crop. Most of your current farm equipment will work for planting, cultivating and harvesting hemp. Legacy Hemp, out of Minnesota seems to be one of the area leaders for buying your crop. However, they only buy what has been grown organically, but by establishing a relationship with a reputable supplier of certified seed and a buyer for your crop, you will have less risk of having your crop go up in smoke.
More good news is that the federal changes necessary to allow industrial hemp in Wisconsin to flourish for our farm families has bipartisan support from around the country and right here at home. Nearly all of Wisconsin's members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican, have co-sponsored HR 3530, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. Among those Wisconsin politicians who support this measure are Representatives Glenn Grothman, Ron Kind, Mark Pocan, Gwen Moore, and Mike Gallagher.
In conclusion, enter this market with caution. Contact your local extension office. Register with email@example.com
or call 608-244-4500. WPT has also created a viewing link to the meeting in Eau Claire, which was recorded by Wisconsin Eye. Anyone seriously considering planting hemp should view this before doing anything else.
NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL
AND AROUND WISCONSIN
25,000 WISCONSINITES GAIN EMPLOYMENT THROUGH FOODSHARE EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING PROGRAM
According to the Department of Health Services, more than 25,000 Wisconsinites receiving FoodShare benefits who participated in the FoodShare Employment and Training program have secured employment, as of December. This program was implemented as part of Governor Walker's Wisconsin Works for Everyone reform.
Since the program was implemented in April of 2015, a total of 25,071 participants have gained employment, and on average, those participants worked an average of 35 hours per week, earning nearly $13/hour. The state's minimum wage is $7.25/hour.
Under the program, able-bodied adults in the FoodShare program who are childless must meet the a work requirement of at least 80 hours per week by participating in the FSET program, or another eligible worker training program.
KIMBERLY-CLARK PLANS TO CLOSE TWO FOX VALLEY FACILITIES WITHIN 18 MONTHS
As part of a global restructuring plan, Kimberly-Clark, maker of personal care products wuch as Huggies diapers and Kleenex, will close two of its Fox Valley manufacturing plants, equating to about 600 job losses in the region. Globally, about 5,000-5,500 jobs will be cut overall, or about 12 percent of its workforce.
The Fox Valley plants, located in Neenah, will be the Cold Spring Facility and the Nonwovens Facility.
The company was founded in Neenah in the 1870s, but moved its headquarters to Taxas in the mid 1980s.
The company assured local residents that they will remain one of the largest employers in Neenah, and that the North American Consumer business will continue to be headquartered in Neenah, saying they will remain committed to the region.
In response, three Democratic lawmakers from the area proposed that the state government assist the corporation in stabilizing the paper industry by providing $60 million. The lawmakers requested that each plant receive $30 million in an effort to retrofit the facilities and assist with energy efficiency improvements.
Governor Walker also announced that he would like to more than double the tax credits received by Kimberly-Clark from 7 percent to 17 percent in the hopes of preventing the closures. The governor said in a statement that the percentage would be the same used to attract Foxconn to Wisconsin.
GOV. WALKER OPEN TO RAISING GAS TAX
After a massive impasse over transportation between top Republican lawmakers through the 2017-2018 budget process, causing the state's spending plan to be put on hold for months with no resolution, Governor Walker has shifted gears and is now open to the possibility of increasing the tax that drivers pay at the pump in Wisconsin.
Late last week, Governor Walker said he is open to raising the gas tax in an effort to access additional federal infrastructure dollars, though said his position has not changed on the issue. The governor also said the increase would need to be offset with savings elsewhere in the state as to not increase the tax burden.
President Trump last week called for a $1.5 trillion spending package for infrastructure, with Walker responding that Wisconsin is willing to invest in order to obtain federal dollars. He also said he believes the feds should provide 80 percent of funding, with the state contributing around 20 percent.
UTILITY RATE DISPUTE BILL SIGNED INTO LAW
Assembly Bill 532, which passed the Senate last month, and the Assembly in November, has been signed into law, allowing utilities an avenue for resolving disputes over rate increases on homeowners and businesses.
Under the new law, utilities will be allowed to settle with homeowners groups and businesses before having the Public Service Commission's approval. The agreements, however, would go directly to the PSC if one side did not agree to a settlement.
The measure was mostly backed by utility groups, with the Citizens Utility Board testifying that the process outlined in the legislation will favor the utilities in the disputes, as it does not require them to exchange information "with non-settling parties" or respond to requests for information. Proponents of the legislation argue that the process allows for a faster settlement timeline, while cutting out an entire agency from the process unless necessary.
LAWMAKERS ATTEMPTING TO FUND I-94 EAST-WEST PROJECT
A group of Republican lawmakers said they have found a way to keep the massive I-94 East-West rebuild project alive in Milwaukee, through the project was cut during the state budget process over major funding debates on transportation.
Though the actual construction process would not begin for years, thanks to $25 million of dollars in savings found in the Department of Transportation in an effort to bring more efficiency to the department, the project is able to move ahead according to the lawmakers.
The project would stretch between the Marquette Interchange in downtown Milwaukee, west to the Zoo Interchange on the west side of the city.
Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), who is also Co-Chair of the Joint Finance Committee, said that about $22 million of work that has already been conducted by the state would be lost if this plan does not move forward.
In response to the plan, the Mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, said that he would like to see any money found or saved at the Department of Transportation go towards the needs of the community, such as creating a regional transit authority.
WISCONSIN CATTLE NUMBERS DOWN, SHEEP AND DAIRY GOAT HERD NUMBERS REMAIN STEADY
As of the first of the year, cattle and calves in Wisconsin totaled 3.5 million head, which is a one percent drop from the same time last year. About 285,000 beef cows were tallied in WIsconsin last month, which is two percent less than the numbers recorded earlier in 2017, and milk cows saw a 5,000 head drop to 1.28 million.
Heifers 500lbs and heavier were at 830,000 head, also down one percent from last January, and steer 500lbs and heavier were down five percent to 380,000. Bulls 500lbs and heavier remained unchanged at 30,000, and calves under 500 lbs were at 700,000 head, down one percent.
Wisconsin continued to lead the country with 47,000 dairy goats, up seven percent from the numbers earlier recorded in 2017, and the sheep and lamb numbers on the first of the year totaled 75,000 head, which was down one percent from last year. Wisconsin's wool production was down three percent to a total of 330,000 pounds.
VETERAN SERVICE PROVIDER GRANT RECIPIENTS ANNOUNCED
Governor Walker announced last week that $250,000 in grants through the Department of Veterans Affairs will be presented to various non-profits around the state that provide services to Wisconsin veterans and their families.
The program was signed into law by Governor Walker in April of 2014, for grants totaling $250,000, with each grant allowed up to $25,000 in the application period.
"It is important that we support our veterans and remember their sacrifices every day," said Governor Walker. "Through the organizations here today and these grants, we can continue helping serve those who fought for our freedom. Wisconsin already provides more benefits to veterans than any other state, and we will continue working to serve our veterans."
To read a full list of the grant recipients, click here.
WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
After reading the "LAST WEEK" article, what do you think of Governor Walker's "Ambitious Agenda," moving into this year?
The only time he does anything that's not for big money interests is in election years
I like it as long as they keep taxes down
How about putting child credit toward our roads
Sounds like this administration has tackled the bigger issues, and is now able to focus on how to tackle the next round of issues. It's progress! It's what it takes to keep the state moving forward!
I understand the need to move toward the center because of the upcoming election. However, I believe such a move will allow for more progress and more agreement between parties and ultimately, more for the taxpayers.
Should keep more of the surplus as an emergency reserve.
Governor Walker is planning on investing an annual $50 million for rural economic development. After reading the article: Good idea or bad idea?
Corporate welfare for (some) dairy farms to expand...We are already awash in an ocean of over-production
Too often the money ends up in the hands of a few and not where it's needed the most
I like it as long as they keep taxes down, beware of corporate welfare
Yes small rural communities need help because they are dying
Yeah, rural economic development. They should have put the Foxconn factory int he worst economic county in the state- THAT would have been REAL impact.
Bad idea to give grants for dairys wanting to add to the glut of their product. Help out the farmers that need an operating loan to make it thru this tough time. Those who really don't need the "free money" are going to get it leaving the small family farmer out in the cold.
It's about time we invest in our rural communities.
An interpretive center at Genoa (by fish hatchery) is intended to be a tourist draw along the Great River Road. It has been years in the construction and might be ready this summer. I think the $5 million will be dribbled out until costs increase and bring developments to a crawl.
A newly-proposed tax credit would give $100-per-child to parents through the form of a cash rebate/refund. Good idea or bad idea?
Better than giving it to Foxconn
Better idea than the silly sales tax holiday, as long as they keep taxes down
Again put it toward roads
I'm sorry, but in the big picture, that $100 per child won't go that far for families...unless they have 5 or 6 kids. Use the money for infrastructure or education.
Parents are squeezed hard. This is a good idea. But $100 is just...tiny...but hey, I'll take it.
Of the parents, why waste money trying to give it back.
Maybe the $100 should og to people without children as children are what costs the state big bucks.
Put it toward education.
As a parent I want to agree. However, our failing infrastructure and roadways need attention.
I don't need an extra $100 as much as someone who has one child at home yet?
Keep for emergency reserve.
Fund infrastructure projects.
Here comes the next low income non working mama boom
According to the American Lung Association, Wisconsin has been given a failing grade in several categories relating to tobacco use prevention. After reading the article, do you think the government should be intervening in tobacco use prevention, or should that be up to the individual?
STOP any existing subsidies to tobacco growers.
Up to the individual. Keep government out of our lives. If some one wants to smoke let them kill themselves. Also no public aid or insurance assistance for them . This is there own problem that was brought on by their own actions. Same goes for abusive alcohol consumption. Sorry you have a none functioning liver now but that was your own fault. It is called accountability!
I've lived in Wisconsin all my life and I don't smoke. Freedom of choice comes with consequences.
people that smoke is very hard for them to stop smoking
I think that the government needs to do more to get rid of things that we KNOW cause health issues. Next should be high fructose corn syrup.
Should have used all the money Doyle spent from the tabacco industry, too late now! Higher taxes on cigs to pay for any help would go a long way, that is what made me finally quit!
This is a lifestyle choice. My government isn't going to influence my decisions on tobacco or diet. I travel the US and notice much more obesity in our area than any other part of the country. This too is a life choice. Individuals need to be the primary advocate for their own health.
However, there are always people that help youth get around the system,
Individuals are responsible for their own actions.
DATCP is giving away grants for their Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program. What products do you buy locally right here in Wisconsin? Cheese? Milk? Veggies? Fruit? Furniture? Share your "local" purchases and suggestions here.
Dairy and veggies. I sell kitchen cabinets that are made in WI and we mfg. trusses.
I buy what ever I can local and with the current state of politics, local beers have been a godsend
If I have a choice of buying something from Wisconsin vs from somewhere else, I always buy Wisconsin. That's what makes the farmers markets so great!
DATCP has lost a lot of my support. They are a decade late to the party, and they are promoting and supporting a lot of policies that are TERRIBLE for the state, for ag, for consumer protection, and much more. We buy a LOT that's made within 10 miles of our home. WE are supporting our local farmers. The milk market and mega-farms are DESTROYING the milk market. Need more SMALL farms instead of fewer HUGE farms.
Cheese, Gibbsville, Milk, Kemp, veggies grow my own, Fruit from local orchards.
I buy all of them
Milk, cheese, veggies, garden seeds, plants and supplies
Interesting question. When I'm in a hurry grocery shopping I put things in my
basket that I'm sure have Wisconsin competitors and I should watch my purchases closer.
As many products as possible
I love the small local cheese factories and ice cream creameries. When fall comes the local apple orchards are the best! Buying local keeps the money local and builds communities
Dairy and a hog and beef from local farmer
Buying local is a great idea. We buy cheese, apples, candy, ice cream, sweet corn, pumpkins, and flowers. Support local business!