WisPolitics.com is profiling some of the newly announced state agency heads. Our latest installment features Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Brad Pfaff.
Pfaff previously held several roles within U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, including serving as Wisconsin state executive director and the National Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs. He also served on the La Crosse County Board.
51 years old, born in La Crosse.
Worked as a staffer for former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, and as deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse. Grew up on a farm and held positions within the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.
Received an undergraduate degree from UW-Green Bay in Public and Environmental Administration and a master’s degree from George Mason University in Public Administration.
Oldest of three children. Married for 27 years. Father of two high school-aged children.
Favorite non-work interests?
Loves to read and go for long walks. Currently reading “No Ordinary Time,” a biography of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Why the interest in being in the Evers administration?
“I was raised in a rural area in northern La Crosse County and family farmers and rural communities is who I am. My mother’s family farmed and my father’s family farmed; they’ve been farming in La Crosse County since they came to this country in the 1800s. Rural people and family farmers is something that I’ve always wanted to work to be able to provide assistance and help. I’ve had the opportunity in my career working with Sen. Herb Kohl as well as Congressman Ron Kind to be able to work on public policy: rural issues, specifically dairy issues, agriculture trade issues, some financial issues. But it’s always come back to what can we do to assist our family farmers and our rural communities. Having the opportunity to be part of this administration, quite frankly I’m still humbled by this opportunity that Gov. Evers has provided me, and I’m also extremely thrilled. This gives me an opportunity to, quite frankly, listen and to learn. To listen to our farmers and our residents in our rural communities. It also gives me an opportunity to learn from our family farmers and our residents in our rural communities. But it gives me an opportunity as well to put policies in place that will help our family farmers and residents in our rural communities.”
What are your priorities for the agency under your leadership?
“Wisconsin is a very, very proud state. We also are a state that is made up of extremely hard working and resilient family farmers. They are experiencing some very challenging economic times right now, but the thing is … that we produce some of the highest quality agriculture products from our farm fields and from our dairy cows, without a question. Consumers from around the world want an opportunity to enjoy the products that come from here. I want to give those consumers around the world the opportunity to enjoy those products. I want to be able to open markets, may they be local markets, regional, statewide, national or international, we have an opportunity to do that. We here at DATCP help do that. We’ve got excellent people that are representing Wisconsin and Wisconsin agriculture products around the world. We have a team of trade specialists that are working with our partners around the world in order to find those new markets or consumers around the world have the opportunity to enjoy these products. We also have an opportunity, and I have an opportunity here at DATCP in order to make sure our policymakers in the state Capitol as well the governor and the governor’s senior team recognize the importance of what’s happening on our family farms and in our rural communities. In order for our people to continue to succeed and advance they need to have opportunities that things like cell phone and broadband provide.”
What should the agency be doing differently?
“I think it’s extremely important that we recognize the fact of how important agriculture and our farmers are to this state. One out of every nine people that are working in this state have a job that is related one way, shape or form to agriculture. One out of every nine people that are working in this state have a job that is related to agriculture. That is huge. That is immense. Agriculture has an $88 billion annual economic impact on this state. I want to make sure that our consumers, people that live in our urban areas, people that live in our suburban areas, even those people that live in our rural areas that are not completely familiar with what our farmers do, that they recognize the importance of that. I want to make sure that our farmers feel that their voices are being heard, that they’re being listened to. I think that is extremely important. There’s very low prices right now, our farmers are experiencing up to the 50 year of market prices that are below their cost of production. This is having a tremendous economic as well as emotional impact on our families. They need to be heard.”
What’s the best advice you’ve received since getting the job?
“Hire well. I feel that I’ve hired extremely well, I’m very proud of the team we have at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. But I also go back to the advice my mother gave me as a young boy. And she said I was given two ears and one mouth for a reason. I need to listen twice as much as I speak, and I’m trying to do that. ”
“I receive a lot of different ideas, listening is what I do. I value all ideas and all thoughts and I’ll make sure that in one way, shape or form, that those ideas and thoughts, that I hear and that all make sure our team hears.”
See past WisPolitics.com interviews and videos with other cabinet secretaries: