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Walker Names Harsdorf as State Ag Secretary
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 11/10/2017

It's now official. Gov. Scott Walker announced on Friday that Sen. Sheila Harsdorf will serve as the state's next agriculture secretary, effective November 13. A Republican from River Falls, Harsdorf has served Wisconsin's 10th Senate District since 2001--a post once held by her brother, Jim Harsdorf, who also served as the DATCP secretary under former-Gov. Scott McCallum from 2001-2003. Prior to that, she was an Assembly Representative from 1989-1997.

Harsdorf, who is 61, becomes the first female ever to lead the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

"Sheila's experience as a highly-respected, dedicated legislator and dairy farmer make her an excellent fit to lead DATCP," Walker said. "I thank Sheila for her hard work and willingness to continue serving the public, and I look forward to working with her to keep Wisconsin moving forward."

During her time at the Capitol, Sen. Harsdorf was a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, as well as the powerful Joint Finance Committee.

She has been a major supporter of many farm-friendly legislative causes during her tenure. After the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, she sponsored a bill that would impose a $10,000 fine and 10 years of jail time for people who threaten to harm Wisconsin's agricultural industry for terrorism reasons.

In 2005, she was the lead author of Assembly Bill 5, which expanded access to Health Care Cooperatives in Wisconsin by removing the limit on the number of co-ops eligible for the plan so that more people can benefit from them. The following year, she was one of the top sponsors of an effort to require all 87 octane gasoline sold in Wisconsin to be blended with ethanol.

Seven years ago, Harsdorf was one of two dozen Senators who backed legislation that would give dairy farmers the right to sell milk directly from their farms without pasteurizing it first. As part of a regulation-heavy concept, the farm would have been required to obtained a license from the state, adhere to regular testing, label each bottle as 'unpasteurized,' and include both the producer's name and license number on the label. However, that measure was vetoed by former Gov. Jim Doyle.

And farm groups came to her defense in 2011 when she faced a recall challenge during a special election after supporting Walker's Act 10 law. She ultimately secured her job by winning that campaign with 58-percent of the vote.

The Wisconsin Association of Fairs recognized Ms. Harsdorf last year for supporting the fair industry in the state legislature. And she is also a former recipient of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau's Friend of Agriculture award.

The operations at DATCP are currently being managed by Jeff Lyon. He was named Interim Secretary by Gov. Walker on August 14 to replace Ben Brancel, who retired after a combined 10 years on the job over two different stints.

Meanwhile, candidates are already eyeing up Harsdorf Senate seat, which serves portions of Burnett, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix Counties. It's likely the governor will hold a special election to fill that vacancy sometime in 2018.

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