Ben Brancel was appointed Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection by Governor Scott Walker in January 2011. Brancel was reappointed in 2015.
Secretary Brancel was born and raised in Marquette County, Wisconsin. After managing a dairy operation for 22 years, Brancel now raises registered Angus and Hereford beef cattle. Brancel and his wife, Gail, live on his family’s 290-acre farm, which is now owned by his son and daughter-in-law, Tod and Sondra, the sixth consecutive generation to farm the land.
Brancel attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, where he received a degree in animal science. He has served as a leader in a number of agricultural organizations.
Brancel served in the Wisconsin Assembly from 1986-1997 and was tapped to serve as co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee in 1995. During his legislative service, he helped craft the state’s Right to Farm law and the use value assessment for taxing farmland. He was elected by his colleagues to serve as Assembly Speaker in 1997.
Brancel was appointed by Governor Tommy G. Thompson in 1997 to serve as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Among his accomplishments then were founding Wisconsin’s Discovery Farms and Pioneer Farm projects, and leading the effort to revitalize the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory by housing it in the University of Wisconsin System. That led ultimately to the state-of-the art laboratory today on the UW-Madison campus. He served as Secretary until 2001, when he was appointed Wisconsin state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency. He most recently served as the state relations liaison for UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, where he helped support the Wisconsin Agricultural Research Stations.
Brancel’s accomplishments were recognized by the National Republican Legislators Association, which named him its 1997 Leader of the Year. Brancel has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, the Guardian of Small Business award from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and an Honorary American FFA Degree from the American Future Farmers of America. In 2009, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau honored him with its Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award.