One has heard so much these last eight years about how Wisconsin has been ‘open for business,’ and for Walker and the WEDC that has meant countless subsidies and tax breaks for conservatives’ preferred businesses. Walker was never a free-market man; his whole approach rested on state capitalism (government funding some producers) and crony capitalism (government funding producers who are pals).
Bruce Thompson explains how How Walker, Trump Hurt Dairy Industry (“Their policies helped fuel a dairy crisis”):
Given declining demand for milk, one might expect that the last thing state government would decide to do is encourage more milk production. Yet, on March 13, 2012, Governor Scott Walker announced a new program called Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30×20. His accompanying news release explained the name came from the intention to “achieve an annual milk production of 30 billion pounds by 2020.” The release went on to say, “The goal of the Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30×20 program is to improve the long-term viability of Wisconsin’s dairy industry through services … to meet the growing demand of the marketplace.”
Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30×20 quickly achieved its goal. Rather than waiting until 2020, Wisconsin milk production passed 30 billion pounds in 2016.
This odd misdiagnosis is reflected in a 2012 op ed by Ben Brancel, at that time Wisconsin’s secretary of agriculture:
Production grew less than 1 percent in 2011 to 26.1 billion pounds. Good, but not good enough to keep us on pace to meet the demands of the state’s growing processing industry and customers around the world. Wisconsin dairy farmers produce approximately 90 percent of the milk volume needed by the state’s dairy processors. We need it to be 100 percent.
This suggests that Walker and his administration were influenced less by farmers than by “the state’s growing processing industry.” Unfortunately, the demand for milk did not grow along with increased production.
A second blow to dairy farmers came more recently as the result of President Trump’s tariff war against America’s trading partners. This war was triggered by the Trump administration’s series of tariffs on imports of certain products from America’s trading partners. Several countries responded by imposing retaliatory tariffs on selected American products, including agricultural.
Rather than allow market conditions to set supply and demand through the price system, Walker chose to boost supply to help processors and in doing do devastated the dairies that produce milk. Trump came along and made dairies’ distress worse by rejecting free trade in favor of tariffs and a trade war.
Small-town, pro-business notables have adopted this same approach, directing local development agencies to waste hundreds of thousands – and in Whitewater over the years millions – of dollars for their pet projects and crackpot ‘capital catalyst’ ideas. For it all, they’ve done nothing to advance individual and household incomes, and family poverty in Whitewater has increased during their control of the Whitewater Community Development Authority. See A Candid Admission from the Whitewater CDA, Reported Family Poverty in Whitewater Increased Over the Last Decade, and Private Businesses Craving Public Money.
Walker and Trump, meanwhile, have harmed the very dairies on which America’s Dairyland depends.