A plan to drastically reduce the size of the National Agricultural Statistics Service's Wisconsin office in Madison will limit key information that is worth millions of dollars to the industry, the state's agriculture secretary said.

Ben Brancel, who heads the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, opposes but doesn't think he can stop a NASS directive to move Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics into a three-state regional office based in Des Moines, Iowa, as part of a cost-saving initiative.

"I think the handwriting is on the wall," he said.

Although it is best known for publishing crop production forecasts and monthly crop reports, Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics leads the nation every year in survey production for a myriad of subjects as varied as specialty cheeses, custom corn planting, chemical applications, turfgrass practices and wine making, Brancel said.

"The volume of work they do for our state ... is huge," Brancel added. "Most farmers may not see the direct benefit, but I would say the information derived from those surveys is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to some and millions of dollars to others."

Brancel said he doesn't expect a regional office to offer as many state-specific surveys.

"When you regionalize and ... don't have it in the presence in the state you are operating in, it's going to make it much more difficult to accomplish as much as we have on an annual basis," he said.

If the NASS plan is approved by Congress, as expected, the Madison office will be reduced from 18 employees to two who will handle public relations and communications with NASS' information gatherers around the state.

Some reductions have already taken place at offices around the country, said Robert Battaglia, the director of Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics.

A call to a NASS official in Washington involved with the regionalization plan was not returned.

Bruce Jones, an agriculture economics professor at UW-Madison, said an ag statistics office should be maintained in Madison because of Wisconsin's importance to the national dairy industry. "You have to come to Wisconsin and keep track with some certainties and accurate measures to find out about the health of the dairy industry," he said.

NASS experts claim those statistics can still be accurately measured from Des Moines because analysts will keep in touch with information gatherers in Wisconsin, Jones said. But he echoed Brancel's concerns about whether a regional office will provide as much data as needed in Wisconsin.

"When you look Wisconsin people in the eye on a day-to-day basis, you are thinking about Wisconsin in terms of the projects and the things you want to measure. When you are in Des Moines, you are more likely going to see more Iowans and you might have this bias toward satisfying the Iowan needs than looking at Wisconsin's needs," Jones said.

Brancel said ag directors from other states were in awe of Wisconsin's relationship with its NASS office when they gathered to discuss the regionalization plan.

"I said it has helped us with guiding people with investments, it has helped in deciding what research needs to be done, it has helped organizations refocus on areas of weakness or promote areas of strength," Brancel said. "Most of them said, 'I wish we had that.'"

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(8) comments

Good Gosh

People, people, people, why are you even questioning this major achievement of the Republican Party? Clearly, this shrinks government so those bad boys can go away. Doesn't matter that it reduces Wisconsin's jobs, doesn't matter if the agency is important to anyone. Just kick the bums out! (Ya think our taxes will go down coz of this??? huh, huh, do ya, do ya?)

Relocated1

Okay people. Sit down and let me tell you a short story about how the FEDERAL government works. Wisconsin Agricultural Statistic Service aka WASS aka Wisconsin/ National Agricultural Statistic Service has been under Democratic control since your Savior Obama has been President.
Dr. Cynthia Clark is Administrator of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), overseeing the agency’s efforts to collect and disseminate data on every facet of U.S. agriculture.
Regionalizing these offices would be more cost-efficient. Centralizing NASS operations in fewer offices would reduce the number of staff moves by providing more career experience and opportunities in one place such as a regional office.
In February 2012, NASS submitted a request to the President’s FY 2013 budget for $179.5 million. This includes $117 million for the agricultural estimates program and $62.5 million for the census. (HEY! THAT LOOKS LIKE A BUDGET...NOW KIDS A BUDGET IS A summary of intended expenditures along with proposals for how to meet them; i.e."the president submitted the annual budget to Congress"<----I KNOW AMAZING RIGHT.
It might be hard for liberals to understand that they eat their own when no budget is passed (or even submitted for passing) that my friends is NOT GOV. SCOTT WALKER'S FAULT. but you probably never even read this far. Have a great time blaming the W.R.O.N.G. people. by the way...how is your radio friend Sly in the Morning doing these days...

Dr. Clark pointed out that during shrinking budget times non-NASS decisions have agency implications; examples include the elimination of some reimbursable surveys, increased survey administration costs, and declining financial support from state departments of agriculture across the nation. The agency again was forced to make survival decisions. To become more efficient, NASS needed to reduce the cost of collecting and processing data, improve data quality, and provide enhanced career opportunities for employees. Dr. Clark and the NASS Senior Executive Team developed operational efficiency initiatives to make the agency more efficient and effective. These include LAN (local area network) centralization; technology enhancements; computer-assisted personal interviewing; development of a Data Collection, Frames Maintenance and Training Center

Rosalie

I don't think Walker's decisions are based on information, just on gut feelings.

KJV

Did you read the article? Walker has nothing to do with this.

KJV

Did you read the article? Walker has nothing to do with this.

whatistruth

Somebody help me out here!

I thought that Republicans were all for LESS government.

I'm confused!

Is this a rally for corporate welfare or just aberrant sentimentality or perhaps an indication that government DOES play an important role?

Tea Parody
Tea Parody

We need a smaller government so this is a good idea. My hero, Grover Norquist, says government should be made so small you can drown it in a bathtub. Except for the military, that needs to get bigger to meet the threat we face from the commies in China which just seems to be getting economically more powerful by the day. The Chinese are getting too big for their britches and need to understand they can take our jobs but they can't take our government.

Another good idea. Get the government off the internet and free it up for the private sector. Inefficient government email is taking up too much bandwidth.

Shake
Shake

16 jobs lost and damage to Wisconsin's economy. Austerity, it's what's for breakfast.

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