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Eric Litke
By Eric Litke January 15, 2021

Promised ‘rural prosperity’ panel issues report

Gov. Tony Evers promised to convene a "blue ribbon commission" to advance agricultural and economic opportunities in rural Wisconsin, and he delivered — even though the effort looked very different amid the 2020 pandemic.

It's a far-reaching charge given that 58 of the state's 72 countiles are designated as rural.

Evers created the commission in a January 2020 executive order and filled it five months later with 12 people from around the state, including a teacher, a banker, farmers and a high school student.

That group held three virtual public forums in August and September that were attended by more than 500 people and received 45 written submissions from groups around the state, according to a 49-page report the commission released in December 2020. Commission members also attended 25 other meetings of stakeholders in rural Wisconsin.

The resulting report included 10 recommendations on topics such as recognizing the needs of Native Americans, eliminating local bureaucracy and expanding rural infrastructure and grant programs:

  1. Create and appropriately resource a place within the Wisconsin state government that understands and champions the unique attributes of rural Wisconsin — including Native Nations.

  2. Continue the governor's efforts to make the needs and priorities of rural communities and Native Nations a forethought, rather than an afterthought.

  3. Take an "all-of-government approach" to doing right by rural and tribal communities.

  4. Ensure rural places and Native Nations in rural Wisconsin get a fair shake in accessing state and federal resources (such as specific programs and grants for rural areas).

  5. Look beyond Wisconsin's borders for good ideas.

  6. Unleash the full power of communities to innovate and act by updating state laws that restrict local agency.

  7. Reinvest in the Wisconsin Idea and the University of Wisconsin, its satellite campuses, and our state's network of community and technical colleges as unique and valuable assets.

  8. Rebalance state business incentives to ensure economic development prioritizes the assets of Wisconsin people, communities and businesses.

  9. Invest in vital ingredients for our better future (such as rural broadband, child care, housing, physical and mental health care and education).

  10. Continue the work of the Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity.

For a promise in this vein, keeping it requires creating a panel that meets and generates action or a report. That's what happened. We rate this Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke January 28, 2020

Evers moves forward with rural issues commission

After another brutal year for rural Wisconsin, leading the nation in farm bankruptcies, Gov. Tony Evers is moving forward on a 2018 campaign promise to find help.

Evers promised to convene a "blue ribbon commission" to advance agricultural and economic opportunities in rural Wisconsin.

In his Jan. 22, 2020, State of the State address, Evers announced a special session of the Legislature to address rural communities and an Office of Rural Prosperity to help farmers navigate state programs and resources. He also announced a Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity to "develop long-term strategies on how we can best support the needs of rural Wisconsinites and rural communities."

The governor followed up the next day with an executive order formally creating the commission, which will be attached to the state Department of Administration.

Keeping this promise would mean a panel that meets and generates a report or some kind of action. For now, we rate it In the Works.

Our Sources

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke October 15, 2019

No progress yet on agricultural board

While campaigning for governor, Tony Evers pledged to "convene a blue-ribbon commission to advance agriculture and economic opportunities in rural Wisconsin."

In the year since, rural Wisconsin has continued to struggle, with the U.S.-China trade war causing particular problems for farmers, especially the state's dairy industry. Farm loan delinquencies have hit record highs this year.

But Evers has yet to take action on this promised committee, which can be created by executive order and doesn't require approval from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Keeping this promise would mean convening the committee, holding regular meetings and ultimately taking action or making a report. We haven't yet hit the starting line.

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said to look for progress on this in the coming months.

For now, we rate this promise Stalled.

Our Sources

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