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Millions approved to aid the agriculture industry

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Lawmakers approved millions of dollars to aid the struggling agriculture industry, sending some bills to the governor's desk.

The Assembly passed a pair of bills that would cut taxes for farmers by nearly $30 million a year, the Senate passed the proposals on Wednesday. 

The measures now await Gov. Evers' signature and come after he first called lawmakers to take immediate action to address the farm crisis.

Republicans tweaked some of the governor’s original proposals which called for spending $8.5 million which didn’t include any tax cuts.

The proposal that passed would allow farmers to apply for tax cuts up to $7,500. To be eligible farmers would need to make at least $35,000 a year in farm income.

Another proposal includes spending $5 million to expand exports of agricultural products such as milk, meat, specialty crops, and other products. Tax breaks would also be offered to deduct the cost of health insurance on farmer's income taxes. 

The legislature also approved allowing small dairy farms to apply for a $600,000 grant if they produce no more than 50 million pounds of product a year. 

Republican Representative Travis Tranel of Cuba City, who’s a dairy farmer, said he acknowledged the package is expensive but called it necessary to help an industry that's losing an average of two dairy farms a day.

“Farmers are pretty realistic people but they're also full of common sense and no matter how many of us stand up here and say we know what you're going through -- the reality is there going through a hard time paying their bills," said Tranel.

Two other proposals approved by the Assembly require the UW system to study problems facing farmers and examine how current programs are supporting the industry. Another also requires the UW to conduct a research study focused on science and technology in agriculture.

The Senate has yet to vote on these proposals.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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