Gov. Tony Evers pledged his support for the dairy community today, pointing to an investment in rural broadband and support for farmers who are advancing conservation practices.
Speaking to viewers at the Dairy Business Association’s virtual Dairy Strong conference, Evers highlighted his focus on improving what he called “unacceptable” internet service in rural Wisconsin. “High-speed internet is a necessity these days and we have to make sure it is reliable, affordable and accessible for everyone,” he said.
A report this year from the research firm Forward Analytics, which examined Federal Communications Commission data from 2019, found that 430,000 people, or 25 percent of Wisconsin’s rural population, don’t have high-speed internet. That puts Wisconsin 36th in the nation in terms of accessibility in rural areas.
Evers said he wants to quadruple state spending on the problem, including $150 million more for an existing broadband expansion grant program and $40 million to help low-income families.
Evers also said that his proposed budget, which he’ll be announcing over the next month, will draw from recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, which outlined 55 solutions to protect the environment. Among those items is increased funding for farmer-led watershed conservation groups, which voluntarily expand the use of innovative farming practices that improve water quality and soil health and track progress using science. The groups receive grants and other support from the state’s agriculture department.
Evers said the state wants to continue partnering with and empowering farmers in those efforts.
“I’ve said all along that our farmers and producers are some of the most avid supporters we have as it relates to clean land, clean air and clean water because you know the value of our state’s natural resources firsthand,” he said.
Evers also praised the dairy community and others in agriculture for persevering during the pandemic, despite difficulties farmers were facing even before COVID-19 struck.
“Nevertheless, you worked hard and tirelessly to ensure Wisconsinites and Americans across our country had food on the table, all the while incorporating new health precautions into your operations,” he said. “That’s why you have been and will continue to be essential to our state.”
A prosperous dairy community, the governor said, “means a strong Wisconsin economy, strong communities and a strong future for our people and our state.”