Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, often a lightning rod for controversy over his stance on public employee unions, received a warm welcome and standing ovation from the 300 folks attending the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association Business Conference (DBA) in Madison yesterday.
In fact, DBA presented Walker with its annual Leadership Award for his support of the industry, his efforts to reduce burdensome regulations and taxes. Under Walker’s administration, Wisconsin property taxes actually declined this year—the first time in 12 years they have done so.
In October, Walker set his 30X20 goal for the state’s dairy industry. He hopes to grow the state’s dairy output to 30 billion pounds of milk production by 2020. The state currently produces 26 billion pounds of milk and 2.6 billion pounds of cheese. It produces one-quarter of the nation’s cheese, and one half of the country’s specialty cheeses—the latter a niche that allows state cheese makers to offer added value.
Nevertheless, Wisconsin is a milk deficit state because it must import about 2.5 billion pounds of milk each year to keep its cheese factories humming at capacity. Walker hopes to fix that with his 20X30 initiative. “A motto on our license plates—America’s Dairyland—isn’t enough,” Walker declared at the DBA meeting. “We want to make it easier to do business in the state.”
“We want our state regulations to be science-based, predictable and common sense based,” he said.
Bill McCoshen, DBA lead lobbyist, said Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature is likely the most pro-business in the state’s 164-year history. He says it is now the 13th best state in which to do business—it had never before ranked higher than 20th.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker-elect Robin Vos says dairy producers can expect even more regulatory reform in 2013. He says a reduction in income taxes is also likely for the middle class—those earning between $20,000 and $200,000.