Budget battles in Wisconsin last spring brought national media coverage, but less publicized news from Wisconsin’s state government will directly impact and assist Wisconsin dairy businesses.
Changes At Wisconsin DNR
Two weeks ago, Governor Scott Walker’s administration announced a new system of operation for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: a pilot program making DNR an “Enterprise Agency” with more direct control over spending and a new, business-like approach to service.
In conversation with WCMA members, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp described this new approach to WCMA as collaborative vs. confrontational. The agency will add an office of business support and sustainability as a contact point for businesses to bring project ideas to DNR.
Under the pilot program, DNR will focus on consistent principals across programs, uniform performance standards for staff and audits of program performance. These business ideas join with better use of IT to streamline services and a goal of reducing permit approval time by 10 percent.
The secretary told the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association that these new ideas boil down to less middle management in Madison and more experts in the field.
As part of this pilot program, DNR is exploring a realignment of staff by business sector, such as a food processing team and dairy farming team.
WCMA held one field day with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources leadership this summer, and in cooperation with the state agency, will host wastewater processing field days with DNR regional staff.
Wisconsin Act 21, signed into law May 23 by Governor Walker, is a major change to how rules and regulations will be drafted and approved in Wisconsin.
While legislation may impact an industry’s profitability or growth, it’s regulations from environmental and agricultural agencies, building codes, safety requirements, and reports and licenses that affect business on a daily basis.
Act 21 inserts the state governor directly into the process of making or changing a regulation, and requires a deeper look at the economic impact of a proposed regulation.
Changes start at the very beginning of the process. Wisconsin’s governor will now approve or deny all scope statements - an initial summary of a proposed rule - before any activity can begin. If this initial step is approved, a state agency must now prepare a detailed economic impact analysis of the regulation.
This analysis includes comparisons of the regulation to approaches used in surrounding states, quantifying implementation and compliance costs for businesses and taxpayers, an analysis of the benefits of the rule and a look at alternatives. Finally, the agency must consult with businesses and individuals to determine if the rule will “adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, jobs or the overall economic competitiveness of the state,” to quote the act.
If a proposed rule may cost industry or taxpayers more than $20 million, the Wisconsin Department of Administration must step in and study the rule’s economic impact.
After these steps, a rulemaking
may be drafted, public hearings held and a final draft prepared. Under Act 21, the governor steps in again with a review of the final draft. The governor may approve or reject the proposed regulation.
Even the legislature gets more authority under new Act 21. After the governor signs off on a rule, the state’s joint committee for review of administrative rules is given 30 days review a new rule, and possibly object to all or part of the rule.
WDATCP Dairy Services
WDATCP is also rethinking its approach to industry service in light of losing $7 million in federal “earmarked” programs and possibly the staff funded through earmarks.
In addition to these lost federal funds, WDATCP faces state budget cuts and the addition of the state Dairy 2020 program (formerly housed at the state’s Department of Commerce). Dairy 2020, initiated in 1990, provides early planning grants to dairy producers and loans to producers adding cows or capital improvements.
Ag Secretary Ben Brancel is taking a proactive approach to these challenges, meeting recently with ag industry leaders to develop focus for state programs that serve agriculture.
One key conclusion that emerged (with the support of WCMA) is this: given limited resources, WDATCP will focus services on dairy producers — producers of any size that wish to modernize or grow their farm business.
The future of Wisconsin’s dairy industry is successful farm businesses — farms managed for profitability and farms that offer an attractive lifestyle to each family’s next generation.
To serve state dairy processors, Secretary Brancel has begun a dialogue with Governor Walker about future funding for the Dairy Business Innovation Center (see the 7-1-2011 issue of this newspaper). DBIC is a proven small business builder and job creator for Wisconsin and a good fit for the state’s newly forming economic development corporation.
These changes aren’t making national headlines, but new ideas at DNR and WDATCP, combined with closer scrutiny of new regulations, are positive developments from the Walker administration. r
John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 828-4550; Fax him at (608) 828-4551; or e-mail John Umhoefer at
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