VernonReporter

State Representative Loren Oldenburg legislative update

Editorial Column by Representative Loren Oldenburg (R-Viroqua)

On Wednesday, July 7, the Wisconsin State Budget for 2023-2025 was finalized. There are various agricultural items included in this budget that I am excited about; specifically, increased funding for county conservation staff, new money for producer-led watershed protection grants, and the creation of a new nitrogen optimization pilot program. These investments will help keep Wisconsin’s waters safe and the agricultural industry strong.

County conservation staff will be receiving $4.25 million dollars this biennium to help support their positions. These conservation positions help create land and water resource management plans, administer the farmland preservation program, and regulate livestock. County conservation staff are also the first point of contact for landowners who are struggling with soil erosion or water pollution. Supporting these positions helps keep landowners connected to valuable information and their land and water on par with conservation standards.

Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants (PLWPG) have been allocated $500,000 dollars in this year’s state budget. The PLWPG program offers funding for local, farmer-driven projects relating to water quality improvement. Eligible projects include but are not limited to: conducting water quality monitoring, measuring environmental benefits of conservation practices, and collaborating with other farmers to increase program participation. Forty-three producer-led groups have already been awarded funding this year, and I am looking forward to seeing what projects are funded with the money from this budget.

Last but certainly not least, a new nitrogen optimization pilot program has been funded in the state budget. While nitrogen is necessary for plant growth, excess amounts of nitrogen from agricultural processes can result in run-off water pollution. This pilot program will be receiving $1 million dollars in grant money, farmers can then use these grants to study the optimal application of fertilizer. This program helps farmers integrate sustainable practices into their every-day routine and avoid incidents of fertilizer polluting nearby bodies of water.

Agriculture provides jobs for nearly half a million Wisconsinites and contributes significantly to the state’s economy, which is why investing in conservation is vital to keeping our natural resources safe. Supporting county conservation staff, the PLWPG program, and nitrogen studies helps keep all of Wisconsin’s agricultural producers informed. I encourage anyone with any further questions about the 2023-2025 Wisconsin State Budget to contact my office at (608) 237-9196 or at Rep.Oldenburg@legis.wisconsin.gov.

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