Wisconsin Farm Groups Rally Support For DATCP Secretary Brad Pfaff Ahead Of Confirmation Vote

Dairy, Corn, Cooperative Groups Say Farmers Need Stability From State Leadership During Tough Time

Wisconsin State Capitol
The Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison. vikramjam (CC BY)

Wisconsin agriculture groups are continuing to support Brad Pfaff ahead of the state Senate’s vote on his appointment as agriculture secretary.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Friday there was not enough support to confirm Pfaff as head of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). The Senate is expected to vote on his appointment Tuesday.

Jamie Mara from the Dairy Business Association (DBA) said in an email that his group continues to support Pfaff’s appointment.

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“Our dairy farmers are being battered by a perfect storm of challenges, from low milk prices in recent years and extreme weather conditions to shifting regulations and trade disruptions. What we desperately need is certainty and stability, not a political fight,” Mara said. “DBA supported Mr. Pfaff’s appointment at the outset, and we see no reason to change that position now. At this critical moment for Wisconsin’s dairy community, the right thing to do is to keep him in place.”

The Cooperative Network also issued a statement in support of Pfaff, saying their members “rely on a fully-functioning DATCP.”

Wisconsin Corn Growers Association President Doug Rebout asked senators in a letter to delay the confirmation vote and give Rebout the opportunity to meet with lawmakers about their concerns.

“Our growers are dealing with increased tariffs, low commodity prices and a combination of surprises from Mother Nature, including a wet spring and what appears to be an early winter,” Rebout said in the letter. “Our members need stability and continuity. They need someone to speak on their behalf, to work on their behalf and to put it simply: someone to care. Brad Pfaff is that person.”

Pfaff has clashed with GOP lawmakers over the last year.

In July, Pfaff criticized the Republican-lead Joint Finance Committee over their inaction on funding for mental health services for farmers. GOP leaders have also been critical of a proposed update to ATCP 51, a DATCP rule detailing how local governments can regulate large livestock farms in the state. Pfaff announced Friday the agency would not be moving the rule forward for a final vote by the DATCP Board.

Kara O’Connor, government relations director for the Wisconsin Farmers Union, said lawmakers need to act in a “reasonably non-partisan” way and advance all qualified nominees for Gov. Tony Evers’ cabinet.

But she said her group also wants Pfaff to reverse his decision on ATCP 51 and move forward with the rule update that the agency has been working on for years.

“The two issues are inextricably tied, I think,” O’Connor said of the vote Tuesday and lack of action on the rule change. “And so what citizens are expecting is for the Legislature to behave in a reasonably bipartisan way and for state agencies to advance rules that are the will of the people and not cave to special interest groups.”

When asked if Wisconsin Farmers Union would support Pfaff’s nomination if he does not move forward with ATCP 51, O’Connor said her group would “cross that bridge when we come to it.”