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Finally, we’re going to create a new program that will focus on getting our farmers access to mental health services in Wisconsin. Our Farm Center is doing important work in this area, but we know folks need access to these resources closer to home. Our mental health program will assist farmers in accessing mental health support. They will also help coordinate local and regional peer support programming, and provide confidential, one-on-one counseling and assistance to farmers.
The second prong of our plan is ensuring that investing in farmers, agriculture, and rural communities is part of our broader economic development strategy. So, tonight I am also announcing that I will be working with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to establish the Office of Rural Prosperity. The office will provide a one-stop shop for folks to navigate state programs and resources tailored to rural communities, businesses, and workers.
Finally, the third prong of our plan is to develop long-term strategies on this issue—not based on what folks in Madison think is best—but based on the feedback and input from folks across our state. So, tomorrow, I will make good on my campaign promise to create a blue-ribbon commission to help promote agriculture and rural economic prosperity.
Our Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity will convene folks and different industries from across our state. They’ll work together to develop long-term strategies on how we can best support the needs of rural Wisconsinites and rural communities.
Some of these proposals aren’t new—many of them are a form of what I proposed in my budget that were unfortunately taken out. But here’s the bottom line folks: we’re losing more than two dairy farms a day. And for each day we delay, the challenges will get harder and harder.
So, I want to be clear: I am not under the misguided belief that what I’m proposing today is the silver bullet. In the coming months, it’s going to take more listening than talking to hear from our farmers and our rural communities about how we can continue to invest in agricultural and rural prosperity across our state. But we have to start somewhere, and we have to start today.
Finally, in addition to addressing these challenges, I’d like to talk about another issue folks in our state care about.
In 2017, Hans, who is a dairy farmer and Lincoln County board supervisor, introduced a resolution supporting nonpartisan redistricting, kicking off a trend across our state. Today, 50 counties, representing 78 percent of the people of Wisconsin, have passed similar resolutions. Hans is up in the gallery with us tonight—Hans, thank you for your work on this important issue.
Unfortunately, nonpartisan redistricting legislation has been introduced for years—it’s even received bipartisan support—but the bill has never even been given a public hearing.
Well, when more than 80 percent of our state supports medical marijuana, 80 percent support universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders, and 70 percent support expanding Medicaid, and elected officials can ignore those numbers without consequence, folks, something’s wrong. The people who work in this building, who sit in these seats, and who drive the policies for our state, should not be able to ignore the people who sent us here. The will of the people is the law of the land, and by golly, the people should not take no for an answer.
So, tonight, as promised, I am bringing the fight for nonpartisan redistricting to the Legislature.
In the coming days, I will be signing an executive order to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission who will draw The People’s Maps.
Our nonpartisan redistricting commission will consist of the people of our state—not elected officials, not lobbyists, not high-paid consultants. The People’s Maps Commission will visit every congressional district, hear directly from folks across our state, and draw fair, impartial maps for the Legislature to take up next year.
I believe, and Wisconsinites do, too, that people should get to choose their elected officials, not the other way around. So, when The People’s Maps are presented to the Legislature next year, I hope they will receive unanimous, bipartisan support.
From nonpartisan redistricting and investing in our rural communities, to addressing youth vaping and capping the cost of insulin, to closing the dark store loophole and getting PFAS out of our water, we’ve got work to do. There’s no rest for the elected, folks, and we’ve got a lot to get done before anyone takes a vacation.
But as I stand here today, and we turn to face the horizon of the coming decade, I have never been more hopeful about us, Wisconsin. And it is up to us to decide what kind of state we will be ten years from now.
We can choose to relitigate past political tussles, or we can choose to transcend animosity to rise and greet the problems before us.
We can choose to resent the hand that helps another, or we can choose to celebrate our neighbor’s prosperity because therein lies our prosperity, too.
We can choose to say ‘in this state, you go it alone or you don’t go at all,’ or we can choose to say ‘in Wisconsin, when we move forward, we all go together.’
Yes, we will most certainly face challenges. Yes, we will face adversity. But let us choose to be defined, not by our indifference, but by our decency. Let us choose to be defined by the depth of our empathy and the strength of our selflessness. And let us plunge into the new decade chasing the charge of the bearers who came before us, let us move forward, together.
It’s time to get to work, folks!
Thank you, and On, Wisconsin!”
The Joint Convention arose.
7:40 P.M.