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Senate to vote on agriculture secretary appointment



Tuesday could mark yet another transition for Wisconsin’s agriculture industry. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-Designee Brad Pfaff does not have enough support to be confirmed.

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Secretary-Designee Brad Pfaff

A La Crosse County native, Pfaff was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers and began his duties in January. Before him, Sheila Harsdorf was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker and served from November 2017 until December 2018.

Various agriculture groups and political leaders submitted letters of support for Pfaff, including Congressman Ron Kind, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the Dairy Business Association, Cooperative Network and the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association.

“We need some stability in that position to lead the ag department in the state,” Doug Rebout, Wisconsin Corn Growers Association president, said. “Our fear is that if they do have the vote and the confirmation gets turned down, then we are starting at ground zero again and there is no one to head the state ag department. Once they do appoint someone, there is the whole new training process, and that would put us way behind.”

“Behind” was a theme for the agriculture industry this year with a delayed planting season and wet harvest. Rebout asked for this conversation to be delayed until farmers can get crops out of the field and have time for an open dialogue about the issue.

“Right now, out here in the country, we are going through the perfect storm,” Rebout said. “We have bad weather low commodity prices, trade wars, and with corn, we have RFS at the federal level. Right now, we need some continuity and stability at the head of our agricultural department at the state.”

If the confirmation vote fails, he would be fired from the post. Pfaff called Republican senators on Monday. Evers’ top aide Joel Brennan said spoke with Republicans who were not comfortable with firing Pfaff. Legislative records show the Wisconsin Senate hasn’t voted to reject a governor’s cabinet appointee since at least 1987 when it began keeping such records.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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