Rod Nilsestuen was more than just the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary; he was a leader that I looked up to. I had the honor of working at DATCP for five years, all while he was the Secretary. Although I left to work for another state agency over a year ago, I still hold a special place in my heart for Rod.
Rod’s vision for agriculture in Wisconsin was to preserve that which we take for granted nowadays: the importance of us working the land to help it work for us. How often do we think about the farmers that grow the ingredients and produce that we buy at the supermarket, the milk that comes in a bottle, or the meat that we find in the butcher shop? But it’s not just the importance of agriculture, but making it matter to Wisconsin. Today, Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland because we produce the most artisan cheeses in the country (perhaps even the world). We had the first mandatory livestock premises registration law to protect animal health. It recently passed working lands initiatives to help preserve agricultural acreage. And we have some of the strongest consumer protection laws. All of these occurred under Rod’s leadership as the Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. I was happy to be a part of it.