U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Urges Trump Administration to Support Wisconsin Farmers and Food Industry Now

“The economic losses predicted from these impacts are staggering, and if we respond rapidly, we can help to reduce the worst losses.”


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is urging President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to support funding and reforms to help Wisconsin’s farmers and food industry in upcoming COVID-19 response legislation. Baldwin is calling for the federal government to quickly direct resources to states and local communities so they can work with food and agriculture stakeholders to stabilize the food supply chain, address serious threats to worker safety, and avoid severe economic losses in rural Wisconsin.


As Wisconsin faces severe agriculture and food supply chain challenges as a result of COVID-19, Senator Baldwin is urging the administration to create Food and Agriculture Emergency Block Grants for States to help agriculture and food processing businesses solve coronavirus-related challenges. Specifically, Baldwin notes this emergency funding would help businesses reprocess food-service scale products to family-sized packages, connect businesses with new customers, prevent the waste of food, address shifting workforce needs, ensure workers have safety protections, and respond to changing consumer demand during this public health crisis.


Baldwin writes, “Our nation is facing severe agriculture and food supply chain challenges as a result of the temporary, but necessary, steps people across our country are taking to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in their communities and to protect the health of vulnerable Americans.”


She continues, “In Wisconsin we are already feeling these impacts acutely. Dairy farmers have suddenly lost markets and been unable to find a place to process their milk in time, so they have been forced to dispose of it. Farmers with livestock that are ready for market have seen the value of their work and quality of their meat wasted for lack of a stable supply chain. Local farmers whose livelihoods depend on the success of restaurants serving their locally-grown products have seen their entire businesses upended, all at one of the busiest and costliest times of the year—spring planting. The economic losses predicted from these impacts are staggering, and if we respond rapidly, we can help to reduce the worst losses. Without restoring supply chains and the economic impact they fuel, we could see many farms close and food processing businesses shut their doors permanently, despite the temporary nature of these disruptions.”


Baldwin concludes, “These supply chain issues are unfolding rapidly and shifting from week to week.  In order for responses to be effective in moving food, stabilizing the rural economy, and feeding people across our country, we need to act quickly and locally.  For this reason, I urge you to support Food and Agriculture Emergency Block Grants to States … Thank you in advance for your attention to this request for support to our states as they work with their farmers and food businesses to feed our nation in crisis.”


The full letter is available here.


An online version of this release is available here.

Sen. Schachtner’ issues statement on Coronavirus Relief Package
MADISON – Senator Patty Schachtner (D-Somerset) shared a response regarding her vote on the coronavirus relief package, Senate Bill 932: “Legislative leadership rejected the proposals from Governor Tony Evers that had been crafted with input from those folks, like me, that are working to combat this pandemic on the ground. I voted to take this first step forward, but it is clear that Senate Bill 932 does not go far enough. This bill doesn’t include any funding for food banks or emergency food delivery programs. It doesn’t make sure your health insurer covers telehealth services. It doesn’t provide emergency assistance to our local governments. It doesn’t support child care for front line workers. It doesn’t expand programs to support farmers and other small businesses. It doesn’t even expand broadband for rural communities at a time when we need access to information more than ever. This bill cannot be the end of our state’s response, because the difficulties facing the people of Wisconsin certainly haven’t gone away. I will keep fighting for our farmers that are facing the possibility of dumping milk. I will keep pushing to support our healthcare workers that are putting themselves in harm’s way. I will keep showing up to work to support our neighbors that are dealing with the repercussions of this pandemic, and I’m hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will see fit to do the same.”
Local governments receive more than $99 million in transportation aid
STATEWIDE - This week local governments will receive quarterly payments totaling $99,147,647 for General Transportation Aids, Connecting Highway Aids and Expressway Policing Aids from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
For calendar year 2020, local governments will receive an estimated $521 million in financial assistance to support transportation-related projects. This is a 10% increase over the previous biennial budget.
“The importance of a sound transportation system is especially evident as we face the challenge of the COVID-19 public emergency,” Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said. “The local system is the essential first and last miles, making sure that vital goods like food and medical supplies are getting to where they’re needed.”
Payments to Wisconsin’s 1,850 villages, towns and cities include:
• $95,875,797 in General Transportation Aids.
• $3,015,875 to municipalities eligible to receive Connecting Highway Aids.
• $255,975 to Milwaukee County for Expressway Policing Aids.
General Transportation Aids help cover the costs of constructing, maintaining and operating roads and streets under local jurisdiction. Connecting Highway Aids reimburse municipalities for maintenance and traffic control of certain state highways within municipalities.
Quarterly payments for cities, towns and villages are sent the first Monday in January, April, July and October. County payments are made in three installments, with 25% of the total annual payment on the first Monday in January; 50% on the first Monday in July; and 25% on the first Monday in October.
For a complete list of local payments, visit wisconsindot.gov/Pages/doing-bus/local-gov/astnce-pgms/highway/gta.aspx.
A Near-Record Year For Wisconsin School Referendums As Most Districts Approve New Funding
Voters observe social distancing guidelines as they wait in line to cast ballots at Washington High School while ignoring a stay-at-home order over the coronavirus threat to vote in the state's presidential primary election, Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Milwaukee. Morry Gash/AP Photo
Though Results Are Still Being Finalized, Wisconsin Voters Approve More Than 80 Percent Of School Funding Referendums by Madeline Fox
Preliminary numbers from last week's election show Wisconsin voters approved school district funding requests in near-record numbers.
School districts don't have to submit their final results to the state Department of Public Instruction until April 23. But most have already gotten their referendum results, which were overwhelmingly in favor of upping districts' ability to raise taxes — more than 80 percent passed, approving more than $1.7 billion in total.
Voters approved Milwaukee Public Schools' first referendum in more than two decades, for $87 million in funding over three years, by a 76-percent margin.
To the south, the Racine Unified School District passed a $1.3 billion, 30-year referendum by the skin of its teeth — only five more votes in favor than against, out of more than 33,000 ballots cast.
"It's a big number, and I think it gave some people sticker shock," said Racine School Board President Brian O'Connell. "Our reaction is a win is a win, and we're looking forward now to be able to go implement the plan."
Anne Chapman, an analyst at the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum, said close margins aren’t unusual for school referendums, particularly in smaller school districts, but a five-vote margin is unusual for Racine USD. Its next-closest vote, in 1999, passed with a 69-vote margin.
O'Connell said the school board’s hope with such a large funding request over such a long time was to lock in funding for all its capital improvements early, so it wouldn’t have to return to voters again, "barring disaster," to fund any new construction over that 30-year period.
"There is this cycle now, of school districts having small projects, doing a referendum, and then immediately needing another referendum," he said. "We’re hoping to avoid that."
Racine’s referendum made up the bulk of the more than $1.7 billion approved in Tuesday’s election. In total though, 44 school districts put 57 funding requests to voters, and mostly got the results they were hoping for.
This year trailed record-setting 2018 in total funding approved — voters OK'd $2.2 billion that year — but beat out the $783 million in referendums passed last year.
That goes against the norm for times of economic hardship. In the years following the 2001 and 2008 recessions, there were dips in the rate of approval for school funding referendums, though they bounced back after a couple of years as the economy started to recover.
A more than 80 percent approval rate this year would seem to buck that trend, though Chapman notes that the current coronavirus-caused downturn is an unusual one.
"On the one hand, people are feeling the effects of the recession and may be less likely to want to approve a hike in their taxes," she said. "On the other hand, their kids are home from school, and they’re having a visceral understanding of the importance of education in a way that they’ve never had before, and so they might be more inclined to support a school referendum."
More Than 1M In Wisconsin Vote By Mail, But Full Election Turnout Still Unclear
People vote at Riverside High School for Wisconsin's primary election Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Milwaukee. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. - Morry Gash/AP Photo
Unofficial Turnout Results In Madison Show Decline From 2016 | Laurel White
STATEWIDE - More than 1 million people in Wisconsin requested mail-in ballots for Tuesday's election, but how many of those ballots were returned to clerks won't be known for several days.
Wisconsin's election proceeded Tuesday in the middle of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the state Elections Commission, 1,287,827 people requested absentee mail-in ballots. Of those, 1,003,422 had been returned to clerks as of 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Under a federal court ruling, clerks can continue to accept ballots by mail until Monday as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.
The data also shows a gap of 12,710 ballots between what was requested by voters and what clerks mailed out. If voters didn't receive their ballot before Election Day, election officials encouraged them to vote in person.
Meagan Wolfe, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, noted Wednesday the commission's data about requested, sent and received ballots might not be completely up-to-date as local election officials manually update the numbers and might be behind on data entry.
"That is 100 percent dependent on that clerk entering that data into the system," Wolfe said on a call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. "It's not a tracking system, like a package. It's the clerk entering when they received the request and when they sent the ballot."
Many at the polls Tuesday said they were there because they never received an absentee ballot they requested.
Turnout in Wisconsin’s 2016 presidential primary election was about 2.1 million voters, roughly 47 percent of all registered voters in the state. That means about 1 million people would have needed to vote in person Tuesday to match that turnout.
Wolfe said statewide turnout numbers won't be available until Monday, when clerks are able to release election results.
According to unofficial numbers released by the Madison city clerk, about 26,000 people voted in person across the city. Madison had 66 polling places operating.
Combining absentee ballots counted so far and in-person voting, the clerk’s office unofficially pegged turnout at 50%. That number will go up as more absentee ballots arrive by mail, up until Monday. Those ballots will be added to the turnout total on that day.
The 50% turnout is a marked decline from Madison's 66% turnout for the 2016 presidential primary.
In Milwaukee, which opened only five polling places in the entire city, election officials announced Wednesday that about 19,000 people showed up in person to vote. Hundreds of people remained in line to cast ballots after the scheduled 8 p.m. closing time.
Under state law, anyone in line at the time polls close is allowed to cast a ballot.
Voter turnout in Eau Claire County was about 34% of registered voters, not including mail-in ballots that may continue to arrive through April 13, its clerk said Wednesday.
In Superior, clerk Terri Kalan said just under 3,600 out of 4,300 requested absentee ballots have been returned and more than 2,100 people voted in person.
"In most polling locations, we had double the (mail-in) absentee voters than we did the regular voters that showed up to vote," Kalan said.
Unofficial results so far show a roughly 46% voter turnout in Superior, but Kalan estimated that may rise to 52% once all absentee ballots are counted. She said turnout was fairly similar to the 2016 presidential primary election.
Kalan said administering this year's vote was the most challenging experience she'd had in her decades-long tenure as a local election official.
"This year will be 30 years that I've been here, and this was the worst election I've ever been through," she said, citing the stress and uncertainty with changes to the process.
The Sheboygan city clerk said Wednesday about 9,000 people cast ballots in person, which was down from 2016. In Kenosha, the local election official said overall turnout was about 50% of registered voters, or about 20,000 people. Most voting there was done by mail. The situation was the same in Green Lake, where turnout was about 45%, according to the local clerk. More than 60% of votes there were sent by mail.
Gov. Tony Evers attempted to push back the election until June with an emergency order Monday. The Republican-controlled state Legislature immediately made an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which ruled 4-2 to strike the order down. GOP lawmakers opposed delaying the election, claiming it would leave vacancies in important local offices across the state.
The Democratic presidential primary, a state Supreme Court race, a proposed amendment to the state constitution, and thousands of local offices were on ballots across Wisconsin.
Editor’s note: Danielle Kaeding and Rich Kremer contributed reporting to this story.
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