Governor Scott Walker has given his cabinet their marching orders for filing their budget proposals for the 2013-2015 budget cycle.  While most of those budgets will still be tight and in most cases even smaller than the last budget cycle, the overall cuts won’t be as drastic as the governor’s first budget two years ago that ended up causing the recall election.  Earlier this month the governor told us “We are in reasonably good shape this time around and won’t need massive cuts like two years ago because we made prudent decisions in the past with long term reforms.”
         For Ben Brancel, Secretary at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), the new budget cycle does call for him to make cuts that will total over $1.73 million. The total proposed DATCP budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 will be just under $100 million for each year  At this point the budget numbers have been sent to the Department of Administration for crunching  but the specifics of how many dollars will go to various programs in the agency are not finalized.  Currently, Brancel and his staff are looking at six major programs that will cut across divisional lines within DATCP.  They are Food Safety and Consumer Protection, Animal Health, Agricultural Development Services, Agricultural Assistance, Agricultural Resource Management and Central Administrative Services.
       Brancel and all state agency heads are also using a tool to guide them throught the budget process and evaluation of programs within each agency.  It’s called a Six Sigma-Continuous improvement initiative that is the direct result of an Executive Order signed by the governor last May.  Secretary Brancel described it to us as “A process where you identify steps you take in creating a product or doing an activity and try to find ways to streamline or improve it to deliver the results more effectively, thereby having profitability in the end.”  DATCP officials will use the process over the next couple of years to evaluate and tear apart its six major programs and rebuild them to “Create efficiencies and opportunities for people in the agency to do more work with the time they have,” Brancel added.  Another hope is that the Lean Six Sigma program  will allow DATCP officials to source more money internally to improve their Information Technology systems so people can communicate more quickly and easily with agency staff.
    As far as actual budget items for the next two years, DATCP is seeking about $500,000 for continued support of the state’s livestock prmise identification program.  Brancel hopes to get that money from already existing dollars from General Purpose Revenue at the Revenue Department.  Current regulations call for Brancel’s agency to administer that program, but federal funding to run it has expired
    The new DATCP budget also calls for $200,000 to be moved from the former 20-20 dairy program to the new 30 x 20 program called for by the governor to get 30 billion pounds of milk production in the state by 2020.  Brancel says that program is attracting a lot of attention as his staff has already taken over 250 calls on dairy issues since the program came to his agency from the former Department of Commerce.
     Not all programs are going to be funded in the next budget cycle, though.  Grant programs like the Buy Local grants and the Agricultural Development and Diversification (ADD) program will lose funding in the new budget cycle.  The ADD grants have been in existence since 1989 and were funded each year through 2010.  Early projects in 1989 ranged from Angora goat and mohair production in Wisconsin, producing Lupins in the state and diversifying the forage seed industry across Wisconsin. Some of the last projects funded in 2010 included producing biomass fuel briquettes from dairy manure, finding new technologies for producing Walleye and hybrid Walleye for stocking and food fish , developing milling grade barley and hops in Northwest Wisconsin for state brewers and evaluating, promoting and marketing specialty potato varieties.  Brancel says such programs in the future are going to have to find more private rather than more public funding.
      The DATCP budget is already at the Department of Administration for review and Brancel expects he will have to make very few changes in his request for dollars.