Capitol Update
by Senator Howard Marklein
February 12, 2021


Ag Bills On the Mooooove

Representative Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City), Representative Clint Moses (R-Menomonie) and I recently re-introduced our Truth In Food Labeling legislation to protect and promote real dairy and meat products to consumers.
This legislation is extremely important to the farmers and food processors in the 17th Senate District. They feel very strongly about the integrity of food labeling and are frustrated by the misleading labeling that has invaded dairy and meat cases throughout our grocery stores. It’s disappointing when you open a carton of “ice cream” and discover that you mistakenly bought a flavor-less, dairy-free alternative, rather than the creamy, delicious treat you expected.
Senate Bill (SB) 83 is related to milk labeling, SB 82 is related to meat labeling and SB 81 is related to dairy product labeling. All of the bills say that the only products that can be labeled as commonly used terms for milk, meat and dairy products must actually be made from real milk, meat and dairy products.  This means that you cannot use common terms such as “milk,” “burger,” “chicken wing,” “cheese,” “yogurt,” “provolone,” and other terminology for products that are not made from actual milk, meat from a mammal or cheese that is made from milk.
We know these bills aren’t a silver-bullet that will solve the problems for our ag-economy, but they are something we can do to protect and promote real, healthy, high-quality agricultural products to consumers. These bills will also put pressure on the federal government to take action on existing food labeling regulations that aren’t currently being enforced.
I sincerely appreciate the support of the statewide ag groups and several local leaders for these bills. Dave Buholzer, one of the owners of Klondike Cheese in Monroe, attended the Senate hearing this week to support the legislation. His leadership on this issue has been an important part of the conversation. In addition to the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association (WCMA), these bills are also vocally supported by the Dairy Business Association (DBA), the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF) and the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association (WCA).
Rep. Tranel said earlier this week, “milk is from a cow. Meat is from an animal. Cheese is made from milk. Consumers, farmers and producers deserve clear labeling. Buyers should be able to easily purchase the real food products they intend to purchase. When I select a package of provolone cheese, I shouldn’t have to figure out if it is made from real milk or coconut oil and modified starches. I want the real thing.”
All three bills have passed the Senate Committee on Agriculture & Tourism. I will be working with my colleagues to continue moving these bills through the legislative process.
I have also re-introduced two other bills to support our ag-industry. SB 79 promotes ag education by allowing our instructors from the University of Wisconsin (UW) system to count on-the-farm time toward the calculation of their total teaching hours. Our State Specialists are a very important part of our farm economy and provide invaluable expertise and knowledge to improve all kinds of aspects of farming. The time they spend teaching farmers should be counted toward their overall teaching directive. Otherwise we are disincentivizing our instructors from spending time in the field where we need them the most.
In addition, I have re-introduced SB 80 which will provide increased support for State Integrated Specialists who conduct applied agricultural research. One way to keep Wisconsin’s $104.8 billion agricultural industry strong is to support the work of state integrated specialists at UW-Madison’s Division of Extension. These state specialists conduct applied agricultural research and provide practical and tangible expertise to directly assist farmers and producers by conducting research on important topics such as water quality, pest management, and farm economics. They then share their knowledge and answer tough questions. They also spend time traveling to farms and disseminating valuable information directly to farmers.
I am working on additional ways to support agriculture in Wisconsin and welcome your ideas. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have a recommendation or an obstacle that you are working to overcome. The best legislation always comes directly from you, the people who are living and working in our communities.
As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance.  Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703.