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Walker Appoints Sen. Sheila Harsdorf As Agriculture Head

Harsdorf Will Be The First Woman To Lead The Agency

Sheila Harsdorf
Rich Kremer/WPR

Gov. Scott Walker has appointed Republican state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The appointment announced Friday makes Harsdorf the first woman to lead the agency. She will replace Ben Brancel, who retired in August.

Harsdorf, of River Falls, is resigning her northwestern Wisconsin state Senate seat Friday and beginning the new job Monday. Walker has ordered a special election to be held on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 to replace Harsdorf. If a primary is needed, it will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017.

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The 61-year-old Harsdorf served in the Assembly from 1989 to 1999 and has been in the Senate since 2001. She is a member of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

Walker said Harsdorf’s experience both as a lawmaker and dairy farmer makes her an “excellent fit” for the DATCP job.

Agriculture leaders around the state have applauded her appointment.

“She understands agriculture very well and her family still farms in Pierce County. So I’m confident she’ll be in touch with the real needs of agriculture,” said Jim Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

The Dairy Business Association has also announced their support for Harsdorf.

“Harsdorf has demonstrated leadership on agricultural issues during her time in the Legislature and understands the challenges facing our dairy farmers and processors,” said DBA president Mike North in a statement. “Her commitment to finding solutions with input from those directly affected will help keep our dairy state strong.”

Darin Von Ruden, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, agreed dairy will be a top issue facing Harsdorf as she takes over the department.

“How do we as a state continue to be the leader in the dairy industry throughout the country?” Von Ruden said. “Some of that might mean having to implement more processing facilities. Or how can we make our processing capacity larger so we can take care of the milk that we’re producing?”

Von Ruden said Harsdorf has the experience necessary to lead DATCP and brings a new mindset to the position.

State Rep. Adam Jarchow, of Balsam Lake, announced he will seek Harsdorf’s vacant seat.

Jarchow is known for pushing a slew of conservative bills, including current proposals to lower the drinking age to 19 and block the state Department of Natural Resources from enforcing federal wolf protections.

Jarchow said he’s seeking the 10th state Senate seat so he can have a better platform for his agenda.

“I’ve worked hard and passed a lot of really good, strong legislation, and I just think there’s more work to be done, and I think the best place, the most effective place to do that for me now could be in the Senate,” Jarchow said.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 3:41 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 to include comments from Jarchow and agriculture leaders.