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WI farmers thanking state, federal lawmakers for relief packages until economy recovers

MADISON, WI (WKOW) -- For the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, Wisconsin farmers will be receiving direct payments to help offset losses.

Tuesday, the USDA announced $16 billion would be headed directly to farmers nationwide, and Wednesday Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) announced $50 million dollars for Wisconsin farmers, specifically.

"This is very welcome news," said Joe Bragger, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, which was one of eight organizations that sent a letter to Gov. Evers in April asking for the $50 million.

"With the commitment that we received today and I know the commitment to move this as quickly as possible because it's so needed, it's just welcome news," Bragger said.

The Dairy Business Association was another organization that asked the governor for help.

"The reality is that when you're facing a really dramatic shortfall because of the virus, every little bit will help," said John Holevoet, the organization's director of government affairs.

The $50 million from Wisconsin combined with the $16 billion from the USDA will help in the short term and as Wisconsin starts to reopen, there's a cautious optimism.

"At least right now, the initial buys to get back to where they need to be to reopen, we've seen sales pick up on the dairy side," Holevoet said.

Wisconsin Corn Growers Association President Doug Rebout is also cautiously optimistic, hoping the state is able to safely reopen and unlock the economy even further, providing farmers financial support, but also community support.

"Where it's helping more is that mental part of it," he said. "When we're able to get out and talk to people."

Rebout says no farmer wants to ask the government for money and would much rather make it themselves, but he understands the risks of reopening too soon. That's why, for now, he's thankful for both the state and federal help.

"We need to make it through it," he said.

The Governor's Office says payments to farmers could go out as early as June. The USDA says payments from its programs will go out as applications are processed.

In addition to the $50 million for direct payments to farmers, Gov. Evers also announced a $15-million Food Security Initiative to combat hunger in Wisconsin.

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CBS 3 Duluth

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