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Erpenbach: WI Farmers Struggling Through Political Battles

Brad Pfaff, the Wisconsin agriculture secretary fired by the Republican-controlled state Senate, has a new job as director of business and rural development for the state Department of Administration. (JillWellington/Pixabay)
Brad Pfaff, the Wisconsin agriculture secretary fired by the Republican-controlled state Senate, has a new job as director of business and rural development for the state Department of Administration. (JillWellington/Pixabay)
November 12, 2019

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin farmers are struggling to stay afloat as political battles take center stage. Republican Senate leaders said they were upset with state agriculture secretary-designee Brad Pfaff for criticizing the GOP for not moving fast enough to release money for farmer suicide prevention efforts. So they rejected his confirmation.

Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said he believes the move was politically motivated against Gov. Tony Evers, but said Republicans are hurting farmers instead.

"This isn't good for them,” Erpenbach said. “This is another somewhat of a setback - not so much of a setback for Gov. Evers as much as it is for those who depend on consistency and knowing what policies are going to be and know that they have someone in their corner fighting for them."

Evers blasted the decision with an expletive, but his office later announced that Randy Romanski, who has worked in state government for decades, would be interim secretary of agriculture. On Monday, Evers hired Pfaff as director of business and rural development for the state Department of Administration.

Erpenbach said despite the quick action by the governor to smooth things over, he thinks the move by his Republican colleagues was an unnecessary blow to the ag community.

"We're leading the nation in farm bankruptcies. Prices are down, mental health issues are up, it's very, very, very difficult,” he said. “And obviously the tariffs coming out of Washington, D.C., have not helped Wisconsin farmers at all."

There are still no details on the ousted agriculture commissioner's new role, except for an announcement stating Pfaff's experience supporting and advocating for Wisconsin small businesses and rural communities will be used to help grow the state's economy.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - WI