Sen. Smith’s Statement Regarding JFC Action on Farmer Mental Health Funding

MADISON – This week, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) approved $200,000 in funding over the next two years for farmer mental health assistance.

In February, Governor Tony Evers included funding for farmer mental health services in his 2019-21 biennial budget proposal. However, Republican JFC members deleted the provision from the budget and moved the funding to the JFC supplemental appropriation. The Republicans’ decision required the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Brad Pfaff to request the funding during a committee hearing from JFC members, ultimately delaying the funding allocation for this urgent issue.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau indicated that DATCP will apply funding to the Wisconsin Farm Center hotline, counseling vouchers, and mental health workshops for farmers, farm families and community organizations. Additional mental health funding now preserves the ability of DATCP to provide resources to farmers during a difficult stretch of low commodity prices and a rise in farmer suicide rates.

In response to the JFC action, Senator Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick) released the following statement:

“For months, Republicans sat on their hands while farmers wondered if help was available. I’m encouraged to see Republicans join Democrats by finally doing the right thing. We must work together to do everything we can to support our agricultural communities by ending President Trump’s trade war, expanding Wisconsin’s agricultural market share and preserving our small family farms.” 

The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo and Pepin counties and portions of Trempealeau, Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Chippewa and Jackson counties and very small portions of Chippewa and St. Croix counties.