Secretary Ben Brancel
Ben Brancel was appointed Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection by Governor Scott Walker in January 2011. Brancel was reappointed in 2015.
Secretary Brancel was born and raised in Marquette County, Wisconsin. After managing a dairy operation for 22 years, Brancel now raises registered Angus and Hereford beef cattle. Brancel and his wife, Gail, live on his family’s 290-acre farm, which is now owned by his son and daughter-in-law, Tod and Sondra, the sixth consecutive generation to farm the land.
Brancel attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, where he received a degree in animal science. He has served as a leader in a number of agricultural organizations.
Brancel served in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1986-1997 and was tapped to serve as the co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee in 1995. During his legislative service, he helped craft the state’s Right to Farm law and the use value assessment for taxing farmland. He was elected by his colleagues to serve as Assembly Speaker in 1997.
Brancel was appointed by Governor Tommy G. Thompson in 1997 to serve as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Among his accomplishments then were founding Wisconsin’s Discovery Farms and Pioneer Farm projects, and leading the effort to revitalize the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory by housing it in the University of Wisconsin System. That led ultimately to the state-of-the art laboratory today on the UW-Madison campus. He served as Secretary until 2001, when he was appointed Wisconsin state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency. Secretary Brancel most recently served as the state relations liaison for UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, where he helped support the Wisconsin Agricultural Research Stations.
Brancel’s accomplishments were recognized by the National Republican Legislators Association, which named him its 1997 Leader of the Year. Brancel has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, the Guardian of Small Business award from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and an Honorary American FFA Degree from the National FFA Organization. In 2009, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau honored him with its Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award.
Deputy Secretary Jeff Lyon
Jeff Lyon was appointed Deputy Secretary by Secretary Ben Brancel in January 2011. He has had a long career in dealing with agricultural issues from a variety of perspectives.
Deputy Secretary Lyon began his career as a staff writer with The Country Today, after earning his bachelor’s degree in agriculture and journalism from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He next became a legislative assistant in former U.S. Rep. Steve Gunderson’s Washington office. Because of the concentration of dairy farms in the congressman’s district, Lyon spent a good deal of his time working on dairy and other agricultural policy issues. In 1987 he was named assistant director of the National Commission on Dairy Policy, created by Congress under the Food Security Act of 1985, to evaluate dairy policy and alternatives.
He comes to DATCP from his post as director of governmental relations with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. There he was responsible for outreach on legislative and regulatory issues including land use, nonpoint pollution, nutrient management and wildlife damage, and he was the lead staff person on WFBF’s Dairy Advisory and Policy Development Committees. He previously served as WFBF’s member relations director, where he coordinated member recruitment and retention for 61 local chapters as well as overseeing the organization’s leadership development and training programs. Lyon has served on the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation Board of Directors and is a past member of the Wisconsin FFA Foundation Sponsors Board. In 2012, he received the Honorary State FFA Degree from the Wisconsin Association of FFA.
Lyon is married to Karen Finley Lyon, a speech/language pathologist in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. They have two children.
Assistant Deputy Secretary Sandy Chalmers
Sandy Chalmers is Assistant Deputy Secretary, serving as DATCP’s Chief Operations Officer. Sandy came to the position from the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection, where she administered the state’s laws that help ensure fair practices in the marketplace for buyers and sellers. She also served as DATCP’s Director of Outreach and Policy and Communications Director to the Assembly Speaker.
Sandy also has extensive federal service, most recently serving as executive officer of the USDA Farm Service Agency, where she was responsible for managing the operations of 57 Wisconsin offices, a $1.1 billion loan portfolio, and $500 million in annual payments. In 2010, she received the coveted FSA Administrator’s Award for excellence in leadership and management. Earlier in her career, she worked as Legislative Director for U.S. Representative Jan Meyers (KS) and for U.S. Representative Virginia Smith (NE), focusing primarily on energy, environment, budget, and transportation issues.
Sandy received a bachelor’s degree from UW-Platteville and a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska. She is married to Brock Chalmers and has two sons, Scott and Evan, who are recent college graduates. Sandy has three horses and helps manage the family farm.