September 1, 2023
By Lane Kimble
MONROE, Wis. — Many of the roads around Wisconsin’s farms are filled with potholes, crumbling pavement, and provide precious few feet for tractors and trucks to maneuver.
That will soon start to change.
“It is absolutely important for the safety and the movement of crops and machinery across this great state,” Green County farmer Randy Bader said.
Bader – who hosted WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson and Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Randy Romanski at his family’s Carrousel Farms near Monroe last week – was thankful for the significant investments lawmakers and the governor included in the new state budget.
Between state and federal funding, Wisconsin is investing more than $1.6 billion to fix local roads and bridges through 2026. Part of that is a new $150 million Agriculture Road Improvement Program.
“Agriculture and transportation go hand-in-hand. Without a quality network of roads and bridges, a cornerstone of our state’s economy – agriculture – will not thrive,” Thompson said.
The ARIP money must be used on roads that directly service farms and food producers. Counties and municipalities will use WisDOT criteria to choose which roads get the work, but Thompson told WTBA the association’s members will get a shot at winning a majority of the projects.
“Maybe some in some stretches would be self-performed, but largely I would think it’s probably our private sector partners that will be contracted out with to do the work,” Thompson said.
ARIP is currently a one-time program, with work anticipated to begin in 2024. However, WisDOT and DATCP alike hope lawmakers see positive results and fund the program in future budgets.
“There is agreement that investing in infrastructure is not a partisan issue,” Romanski said. “And when I think of investments, I do think of long-term investments… Our infrastructure is something that we need here for everybody to be safe and efficient on our roadways.”