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March 2nd, 2020: Connecting the dots through agriculture

By Randy Romanski, DATCP Interim Secretary​

Romanski Head Shot.jpgEach day, hardworking farmers operate 68,700 farms in Wisconsin, totaling 14.4 million acres of land. Later this month, on March 24, we will celebrate National Agriculture Day, to recognize the diverse food, fuel, and fiber our agriculture community provides. At the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), we are proud to join this celebration and continue our work year-round to support and promote Wisconsin agriculture.

Wisconsin is America's Dairyland, but there is more to our agriculture industry than just milk and cheese. Wisconsin ranks first in the nation for snap beans, cheese, cranberries, ginseng, mink pelt, dry whey, milk goats and corn for silage. Wisconsin agriculture is also a significant economic driver, contributing $104.8 billion annually to our state's economy. That is certainly something to celebrate!

Everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis can be connected to agriculture. Each American farmer feeds more than 165 people, a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960's. In addition to raw food products, Wisconsin agriculture provides jobs in a wide range of specialties, new technologies, innovative conservation practices, and even export opportunities amounting to more than $3.3 billion in 2019.

On National Ag Day and throughout the year, DATCP works to encourage everyone, especially young people, to learn more about how they can support Wisconsin agriculture, no matter where they live. It is important for all of us to recognize the far-reaching impacts of this industry in communities throughout our state.

Farmers don't just work on their own land; they interact with their rural communities each and every day. They shop in local stores, send their children to local schools, and serve in local government. The food grown on our farms travels on town roads and state highways to processors in urban areas. Farmers depend on reliable broadband internet, public education, and accessible health care to run the successful agribusinesses that contribute to our state's economy.

National Ag Day is the perfect time to recognize the connection agriculture provides between people all across our state, our country, and our world. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the strong economy we are building are just a few of the factors that makes Wisconsin remarkable. Happy National Ag Day!

February 3rd, 2020: Make a connection with the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection​​

By Lara Sutherlin, TCP Division Administrator​ 

February is a month for celebrating our connections to others in our lives. This February, I'd like to share the many ways the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection (TCP) at the Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection (DATCP) connects with consumers and businesses across Wisconsin to help them protect themselves and ensure a fair marketplace.

Before you ever make a purchase in your local grocery store or gas station, the Bureau of Weights and Measures (BWM) staff have inspected scales and pumps to ensure they are calibrated accurately and that you will receive a fair deal. Regular inspections by our field staff ensure that this equipment stays in compliance with state law. You can feel confident in your shopping knowing that BWM staff conduct more than 250,000 inspections of devices and products annually.

The Bureau of Business Trade Practices protects agricultural producers against catastrophic defaults by dealers and contractors, ensuring fair competition and a well-functioning marketplace. This division also provides inspection and weighing services for grain, fruits and vegetables. Ensuring our food supply is fair, safe and secure is a priority for DATCP inspectors across the state.

Each year, more than 100,000 inquiries are received by the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Hotline, located in the Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP). Consumers connect to the hotline staff to resolve concerns and find resources to assist in a wide variety of daily concerns. In addition to responding to these complaints, BCP staff educate consumers on ways to avoid identity theft, how to recognize scams, and best practices for selecting trustworthy businesses. The bureau also offers recovery services to identity theft victims with the aid of the Identity Theft Assistance Team.

You can find more information about DATCP and the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection on our website: https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/ConsumerProtection.aspx. We look forward to connecting with you!

​​Jan. 2, 2020: DATCP: Serving You i​n 2020 and Beyond

by Randy Romanski, DATCP Interim Secretary

Romanski Head Shot.jpgHappy New Year! It is hard to believe that we have entered not only a new year, but a new decade as well. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is planning ahead for the next decade by first looking back at the many ways we have served as a resource in 2019:

Dairy Task Force 2.0
In 2019, this cross-section of 31 stakeholders came together to issue a final report detailing 51 recommendations on actions to maintain a viable and profitable dairy industry in Wisconsin. DATCP has already made progress on several of the recommendations, such as the Dairy Innovation Hub, pursuing updates to administrative rules on rBST affidavits, and creating a public-facing dashboard to track each proposal: https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Growing_WI/TaskForceDashboard.aspx

In 2020, the agency will continue to explore ways to further engage with these recommendations. Wisconsin's dairy industry is an integral part of our state's heritage. In collaboration with our federal, state, local, and industry partners, DATCP will continue to support our dairy industry.

Wisconsin Farm Center
From January-June 2019, the Wisconsin Farm Center hotline (1-800-942-2474) saw a 4% increase in incoming calls compared to the previous year. A team of trained DATCP staff take these calls each day, providing no-cost assistance to farmers and their families on a wide range of topics: transition planning, financial consultation, stress management, and more.

In 2020, the Farm Center will partner with UW's Division of Extension to host a series of workshops for farmers and their spouses or partners: https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/farmstress/farmcouples/ These seminars will help farmers communicate more effectively, make plans for the future, and learn about the resources DATCP and UW have to offer. DATCP also plans to host workshops to help counselors better understand agriculture and the unique stresses that go along with farming.

Consumer protection
Each year, DATCP's Bureau of Consumer Protection fields approximately 100,000 inquiries. In 2019, Wisconsin consumers contacted the agency about robocalls, identity theft, landlord-tenant issues, and more. In addition to processing these incoming contacts, DATCP used this information to improve our outreach efforts and assist in consumer protection investigations.

In 2020, DATCP's Data Privacy and Security Advisory Committee, comprised of stakeholders in the data security field, will develop potential legislative options to continue addressing data security challenges facing both consumers and businesses in Wisconsin.

Water quality efforts
Governor Tony Evers declared 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water in Wisconsin. Throughout the year, DATCP staff attended nearly all of the hearings of the legislative Speaker's Task Force on Water Quality and helped ensure that the legislation drafted afterward was on a sound technical foundation. 2019 also saw the highest interest yet in DATCP's Producer-Led Watershed Protection grants, with 30 applications for over $1 million in funding.

In 2020, the agency will continue to serve as a resource for legislators, stakeholders, and members of the public interested in ensuring clean water for all Wisconsin citizens. We will also continue to work with farmers and agricultural organizations to support and improve our ag industry's stewardship of our state's soil and water resources.

In 2019, the second year of Wisconsin's newly revived hemp industry, DATCP issued more than 1,800 licenses to grow and process the crop – a 600% increase from the 2018 growing season. Despite tremendous interest in the program, limited staff capacity, and unpredictable weather, the agency traveled to 70 of 72 counties across the state, collecting 2,200 hemp samples and issuing approximately 1,911 fit for commerce certificates. DATCP also served as a resource during the drafting of 2019 Act 68 or “Hemp 2.0," which improved Wisconsin's hemp laws and positioned our state to align with federal hemp rules moving forward.

In 2020, DATCP looks forward to a year of continued learning and expansion of the hemp industry in our state, especially as we navigate the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) guidelines on this new crop. 

As you can see, DATCP has served as a valuable resource to farmers, businesses, and consumers on a wide variety of topics in 2019. We look forward to continuing to serve Wisconsin in 2020 and for decades to come.

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