Agriculture has a strong heritage in Wisconsin as one of the driving forces behind our state’s economy. In order to keep the sector growing, Senator Johnson has supported initiatives that will expand new and current markets to share our great made-in-Wisconsin products. The Wisconsin agriculture industry should have the ability to provide products to and compete in both domestic and international markets, and Senator Johnson has worked to ensure that Wisconsin products are not unfairly excluded in local programs or abroad.
Some of Senator Johnson’s efforts include introducing the CURD Act (Codifying Useful Regulatory Definitions) to establish an official definition of “natural cheese,” under the FDA’s standards of identity, consistent with longstanding cheese-making processes. The bill passed the Senate in December 2018. He also to allow flavored and unflavored 2 percent and whole milk to be served in the National School Lunch Program.
Senator Johnson cosponsored the Family Farmer Relief Act to help more family farms seek relief by raising the Chapter 12 operating debt cap to $10 million. President Trump signed the bill into law on August 23, 2019.
Senator Johnson’s efforts helped lead to a significant change in the WIC supplemental nutrition program. In 2014, USDA updated the list of allowable foods to include white potatoes. As a way of ensuring that schools can more effectively use their program dollars, Senator Johnson introduced the Fruit and Vegetable Access for Children Act. This bill will allow schools the options of serving fresh along with frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables in the federally funded school snack program. Broader access to healthy foods for children is not only good for families — it helps the Wisconsin agriculture sector as well.
Even though it continues to flourish, Wisconsin agriculture also faces threats. As the gray wolf has recovered, northern Wisconsin farmers, ranchers, and land owners have suffered the consequences of the growing wolf population, including deadly attacks on livestock. Senator Johnson has led the legislative effort since 2015 to remove the recovered gray wolf from the Endangered Species list and return management to state wildlife experts in the western Great Lakes (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan). On October 29, 2020, the Department of Interior announced a final rule to delist the gray wolf in the lower 48 states.
Through his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Senator Johnson called a hearing to examine the threat avian influenza poses to both our economy, because of its potential impact on the poultry industry, and in the long term to public health.
Senator Johnson has sponsored bills and held a hearing to highlight how certain regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency threaten farmers’ ability to work their own land. It is important to eliminate both international and federal barriers that can hinder Wisconsin’s agricultural economy, including by protecting common cheese and meat names in our international trade agreements, eliminating tariffs and reducing the chance for retaliatory tariffs, and by including a variety of nutritional options in our National School Lunch Program and WIC.
Senator Johnson will continue to promote common-sense policies that ease regulation and promote growth within Wisconsin’s agriculture sector.
Letters and additional legislation:
- Signed a letter to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the retaliatory tariffs placed on cranberries and requesting relief to cranberry growers comparable to other commodities that were negatively impacted by tariffs. Letter Signed Dec. 6, 2018.
- Signed a letter to USDA and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the use of sugar for palatability and the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. Letter dated May 7, 2015.
- Signed a letter to The Food and Drug Administration concerning changing food labels to include added sugar. Letter dated July 31, 2014.
- Signed a Wisconsin delegation letter to the USDA asking that cranberries be added to its Foods Available List, allowing school districts to serve them. Letter dated November 2013.
Dairy and Cheese
- Signed a letter to USDA on implementation of CARES Act funding for farmers and producers, urging USDA to increase its Section 32 purchases for food banks and reopen enrollment for the Dairy Margin Coverage program. Letter dated April 3, 2020.
- Signed a letter to the Department of Commerce, USTR, and the USDA concerning Canada’s targeted milk pricing program that compromised Wisconsin dairy farmers’ access to the Canadian market under existing trade agreements. Letter dated April 12, 2017.
- Signed a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative and the UDSA regarding the European Union’s use of geographical indicators to protect what the U.S. considers generic cheese names. Letter dated March 11, 2014.
- Signed letter to the USDA, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency regarding regulating greenhouse gas methane emissions in the agriculture sector. Letter dated April 2014
Crops and Plant Breeding
- Signed a letter to USDA urging the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) make the Plant Breeding Facilities a priority for replacement and add the project to the relevant ARS Co-located Cooperative Facility Report. Letter dated Nov. 1, 2019.
- Led a letter to USDA requesting flexibility in planting, harvesting, and grazing of forage crops/cover crops on prevent plant acreage due to severe weather. Letter dated June 12, 2019.
Meat and Potatoes
- Signed a letter to the USDA and HHS questioning the scientific integrity of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendation to remove lean red meat from the statement of a healthy dietary pattern. Letter dated March 12, 2015.
- Signed a letter to the Trade Representative and the USDA regarding the EU’s protection of common meat names through their geographical indicator system. Letter dated April 4, 2014.
- Signed letter to the Trade Representative and the USDA addressing the importance of market access for U.S. pork exports in the Transpacific Partnership. Letter dated Dec. 13, 2013.
- Signed a letter to the USDA requesting “white potatoes” be re-included in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Letter dated May 2, 2014.
- On December 30, 2014, the USDA issued a memorandum requiring state agencies to include white potatoes as an eligible purchase with the WIC cash-value voucher.
- Signed letter to USDA requesting a review and update of the regulations for state waivers of work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents participating in SNAP. Letter dated Dec. 18, 2018.
- Signed letter to USDA concerning the proposed rule “Enhancing Retailer Standards in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” that compromised small retailers’ participation in SNAP. Letter dated August 1, 2016.
- Signed a Wisconsin delegation letter to the USDA with concerns relating to cranberries and dairy in proposed school lunch program guidelines. Letter dated April 9, 2013.
- Cosponsored S.Res.94, A resolution designating the week beginning February 28, 2021, as “National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week.”
- The resolution passed the Senate by voice vote on March 3, 2021.
- Signed a letter to USDA in support of the Wisconsin Land-Grant System Partnership for Advancing Native Education Pathways for UW-Madison, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College, and College of Menominee Nation. Letter dated July 8, 2020.
- On September 28, 2020, USDA awarded a grant to UW-Madison, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College and College of Menominee Nation.
- Sent a letter of support for the Ho Chunk Nation land fee-to-trust application in the City of Beloit to the Department of Interior. Letter dated November 27, 2019.
- On April 16, 2020, the Bureau of Interior Affairs completed its review of Ho Chunk Nation’s application with a positive determination.
- Led letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressing the importance of up-to-date, accurate broadband maps. Letter dated May 17, 2019.
- In August 2019, the FCC passed an order to reform and improve broadband mapping.
- Signed a letter to the FCC urging the commission to finialize its outsanding Unlicenced Reconsideration proceeding and Database Accuracy proceeding, to provide regulatory certainty for broadband providers in rural and tribal communities. Letter dated Nov. 27, 2018.
- The FCC adopted an order on Sept. 21, 2020.
- Signed letter to the FCC expressing the importance of mobile broadband to precision agriculture as the FCC moved forward with the Mobility Fund Phase II. Letter dated July 11, 2016.
- Signed letter to the FCC requesting that the commission make the Universal Service Fund (USF) available to support broadband lines when rural customers choose not to purchase voice telephone service. Letter dated May 11, 2015.
- Signed letter to the FCC requesting tailored modifications to modernize the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) for delivery of communications services to consumers in high-cost portions of the U.S. served by small, rural rate-of-return-regulated local exchange carriers. Letter dated May 6, 2014.