Big Ag Up for $720K+ in Fee Breaks in Walker’s State Budget

March 19, 2015

Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2015-17 state budget is seeking fee cuts totaling nearly $722,000 for Wisconsin’s agriculture industry, which has doled out nearly $1.9 million in campaign contributions and outside electioneering support to help the governor win three of his past elections.

The governor’s budget, which will be considered by the legislature in the coming months, calls for repealing fertilizer and plant additive fees beginning in 2016-17. Revenue from the fees, which total $421,900 a year, is used to pay for fertilizer research done by the University of Wisconsin System and the UW-Extension.

Walker’s budget also repeals state license fees totaling $300,000 in 2015-17 on tankers that haul milk.

The agriculture industry was a generous backer of Walker, who is now a 2016 GOP presidential prospect, in his successful 2010 election, 2012 recall, and 2014 reelection campaigns.

Between January, 2010, and Oct. 20, 2014, Walker received $1.65 million in individual and political action committee contributions from agricultural interests. In addition to the direct contributions, a PAC controlled by the influential Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest agricultural lobbying group, spent $213,456 on outside electioneering activities to support Walker.

Walker’s top individual contributors from the agriculture industry between January, 2010, and Oct. 20, 2014, were Louis Gentine, a Sargento Cheese executive, and his wife, Michele, both of Elkhart Lake, $51,000; John and Keri Vosters, of Freedom, co-owners of Milksource, $48,500; and Todd Willer, of Freedom, a Milksource executive, $42,500. Milksource is a company that owns numerous factory farms around Wisconsin.