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Governor tours Juda farm, commits to farm funds
Evers announces millions to support replacement, treating contaminated private rural and farm wells
Farmer Jake Kaderly points to his field while giving a tour of his land near Juda to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, back right, State Rep. Mark Spreitzer, back left, State Senator Janis Ringhand and Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole, near right. Evers’ administration announced a commitment of millions of dollars to farmers and rural landowners to treat or replace contaminated wells. - photo by Gary Mays

MONROE — Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday walked farm fields in Green County, a day after announcing he was committing millions in federal funds to support replacing or treating private wells contaminated in rural and farm communities statewide.

Farmers have a key role to play in water quality — as users of water and nitrates, that drain into the water supply — and Evers said he wanted to encourage them to save water and soil while they can by promoting no-till agricultural practices, while also giving rural residents a break by helping pay for new wells. New wells are very expensive to build and maintain, officials said.

“If were paying $16,000 to drill a well, we’ve got a ways to go,” said Evers, a Democrat who was joined at the Jake Kaderly farm near Juda by Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole, State Sen. Janis Ringhand, (D-Evansville) and State Rep. Mark Spritzer (D-Beloit).

Using one-time COVID-19 relief funds, about $10 million will be made available to protect owners of private wells from contaminated drinking water. The new grant program, officials say, will expand eligibility beyond the state’s current Well Compensation Grant Program to support more well owners.  

Sustained financial support for families with contaminated wells was included in a state budget blueprint that water conservation groups presented in 2021 as part of a broad plan to improve water quality, while supporting farmers’ conservation efforts. A number of recent studies have raised alarms statewide about water quality. 

The grant money to address them comes from one-time funds Wisconsin received through the American Rescue Plan Act, a 2021 law that directed federal money to states during the pandemic.

Evers inspected a soybean field with Kaderly, who emphasized the importance of no-till agricultural practices on the larger water quality issues. Not tilling the ground and using cover crops helps keep soil and moisture from slipping away, which helps improve water quality across the watershed.

It’s a message Kaderly says he hopes more farmers will take to heart, although he and the governor acknowledged that change will require a new mindset among farmers, education and additional equipment.

“You can’t farm like the same way today,” Kaderly told the governor, adding that there is more usage of no-till agriculture in South American than in the United States.  “There are better ways to do it…and if you want to stop well contamination this (no till) is the way to do it.”

Evers agreed, saying “people need to think about changing the way they farm.”

To encourage such practices, Kaderly is active in the Farmers of Sugar River, which bills itself as a “Producer-led” watershed advocacy group.

“Soil erosion should be a rare event and farmers will strive to do what it takes to avoid discharging polluted runoff in order to have {a) healthy health river to fish and recreate in along with safe drinking water,” says the group’s vision statement.

The Well Compensation Grant Program is estimated to be able to help well owners address water contamination in over 1,000 wells across the state, according to the governor’s office. Among groups that supported the grant program’s approval were the Dairy Business Association and the Nature Conservancy.

Evers got his hands dirty Wednesday, inspecting the rich soil and wading far into the vast beanfield in the rolling hills of eastern Green County. He says farmers are vital not just for the agricultural products they produce but for the decisions they make that impact water for everyone. The state also is doing its part not only by making additional money available but by tweaking regulations around wells.

“Unfortunately, too many families across our state know firsthand how it feels to turn on the tap and not be able to trust what comes out, and many have had to rely on plastic water bottles for drinking water,” said Evers. “So, I am glad to be making this investment today while getting rid of outdated and burdensome requirements that will ensure more Wisconsinites clean up their wells to keep their families safe.”

Evers: GOP-backed laws a threat to democracy

By Gary Mays

JUDA — The Wisconsin governor’s race this fall is being watched nationwide as a key swing state, with Gov. Tony Evers seen by many as a firewall against a slew of Republican-backed voter laws.

Evers recently vetoed nine GOP bills — including some that create new barriers to absentee voting — reportedly saying in veto messages that the right to vote “should not be subject to the whims of politicians” unhappy with how the election turned out.

He reiterated his stance on a Wednesday trip to Green County, where he was meeting with farmers to promote a new bill boosting funding and relaxing outdated regulations on private wells in the state. The initiative also seeks to improve rural water quality statewide.

“Our Democracy is a real precious thing and voting is the best way to make democracy strong,” Evers told The Monroe Times.

The voting measures he vetoed recently, Evers said, were all designed to create doubt in the integrity of elections and the process of voting — an effort he said he will continue to push back against leading up to the election in November.

“People who run elections know there’s no fraud,” said Evers, referring to local county clerks and election officials statewide. 

GOP leaders say they are trying to preserve the integrity of the vote with the changes.

He added that he is committed to talking about the issue because the GOP-led effort “is doing a disservice to democracy.”