Ag Chat with Bob Bosold - January 21

ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- Brad Pfaff, secretary-nominee of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, has named Randy Romanski as deputy secretary and Angela James as assistant deputy secretary of the department. Romanski, originally from Wisconsin Rapids, has held leadership roles at multiple state agencies. He previously served as DATCP's deputy secretary and secretary under Governor Jim Doyle, working on issues such as farmland preservation, local foods, farm-to-school, and renewable energy. Romanski has also served as the executive assistant for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Since 2011, Romanski has been serving as the safety program chief in DOT's Division of State Patrol. James was an attorney in private practice before joining the department. Also appointed were Steve Ingham, Division of Food and Recreational safety administrator; Krista Knigge, Division of Agricultural Development administrator; Kelly Smithback, Division of Management Services administrator; Lara Sutherlin, Division of Trade and Consumer Protection administrator; Sara Walling, Division of Agricultural Resource Management Administrator; and Grace Colás, communications director.

Twelve federal Farm Services agency offices will be open tomorrow in Wisconsin to do limited business while the federal government's shutdown continues. Area county offices to open include those in Barron, Neillsville, Wausau, Sparta, Shawano, Ashland and Viroqua. Twenty Minnesota offices also will be open. The offices will be opened only to process payments made before Dec. 31, continue expiring financial statements and open mail to identify priority items. Farmers are being told that most available services can be handled over the telephone. Farmers in any counties with checks that need FSA endorsement may take them to any open county offices for that endorsement. FSA officials said offices without farm-loan presences won't be open to the public, but that employees will be in the offices to check their mail for bankruptcy notifications, third-party foreclosures and anything else that might affect securities and collateral held by the FSA.

The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will begin inspecting large produce farms for compliance with federal food safety regulations this year in cooperation with the federal Food and Drug Administration. The department will be starting inspections on smaller produce farms in 2020. A series of compliance information meetings is being held, with information about sites and times available through the DATCP's Web site.

The National Milk Producers Federation's leadership is supporting congressional legislation they say could help ease dairy-industry labor concerns. NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern said the organization applauds Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-CA for their efforts to begin advancing the process in this Congress on immigration legislation through the Agricultural Worker Program Act, introduced last week in both chambers of Congress. Mulher said the legislation works to address agriculture's needs by providing farmers with access to a legal workforce, a key element in the solution to the dairy industry's workforce challenges.