Agency Primer: Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection

Agency Primer by IRG:

Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

Like many of Wisconsin’s other executive branch agencies, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection was formed by the consolidation of smaller agencies. Before Wisconsin’s statehood in 1848, the territorial legislature had laws in place that regulated weights and measures, food quality, and labeling. Much of this early regulation was vested in county treasurers and stayed that way until the legislature passed a law in 1867 that allowed the governor to appoint a treasury agent. In the succeeding years, the legislature would enact more regulations that would create almost all of the constituent parts of the modern Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

In 1915, the legislature created the Department of Agriculture which combined the Board of Agriculture, Livestock Sanitary Board, State Veterinarian, Inspector of Apiaries, and Orchard and Nursery Inspector. This early version of DATCP promoted the agricultural industry, published data on crop yields, and paid for advertisements in domestic and foreign publications to attract capital and labor. In 1929, further consolidation of the Department of Agri- culture, the Department of Markets, the Dairy and Food Commissioner, the State Supervisor of Inspectors of Illuminating Oils, and the State Humane Agent created the Department of Agriculture and Markets which would lat- er become DATCP. The Department was under the supervision of 3 commissioners appointed by the governor. In 1939, it was renamed the Department of Agriculture and a new 7-member board took the place of the commissioners. The board was appointed by the governor and they appointed their own director.

In 1977, the Department’s name was once again changed to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. 1995 Act 27 officially made the Department’s Secretary a gubernatorial appointment and consolidated the state’s consumer protection functions within the agency by pull- ing responsibilities from the Department of Justice.

Today, Wisconsin agriculture is a big economic driver contributing $104.8 billion annually to our state’s economy. The Department’s reach is far and wide as it oversees major swaths of the Wisconsin economy. Regulating the food supply chain from farm to consumer, regulating recreational activities, and enforcing consumer protection laws. In one way or another, the department reaches nearly every business in the state.

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