Members of the Agriculture Task Force are to be congratulated for identifying many of the challenges facing Wisconsin agriculture, and for suggesting practical ways to address those challenges.
I particularly appreciate the Task Force observations about “applied information needs of producers and processors.” With declining resources, extension faculty members at both the campus and county levels are stretched ever thinner. While information technology and cross-state and cross-county cooperation can overcome some of these reductions, those alone are not enough to meet the ever-increasing needs of our agricultural and food industries.
Backing up the front-line extension workers are researchers whose studies produce the applied, science-based information needed by our agricultural and food industries. The report very clearly identifies a problem that confronts us in the applied research area.
Although federal research funds have very appropriately increased dramatically in more basic biological science areas, similar funding increases have not occurred for agricultural and natural resource research. A Wisconsin Agricultural Research and Development (WISARD) funding program, or something like it, would go a long way toward closing the funding gap and generating the research findings our extension programs need to adequately serve food producers and processors.
I also applaud the committee for its strong endorsement of efforts to support the state”s rapidly expanding biotechnology industries. Because of the large biological sciences research base on the Madison campus, and the many biotechnology firms already in the state, we have a strong foundation for economic and job growth in this area.
Task Force support for initiatives in land use and environmental protection are also welcome. The Madison campus” considerable expertise in land use planning will be strengthened by three additional land use faculty positions created through recent state funding fo