Rod Nilsestuen, Wisconsin's department of agriculture head, drowns
MADISON - Rod Nilsestuen, who headed the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture as a "visionary agriculture leader" and helped dramatically increase the state's dairy production, has died, Gov.
Vigue said Nilsestuen
was volunteering in the area.
was not only "one of the most important agriculture leaders in Wisconsin history" who helped protect farmland and connect residents to local farms, but also was a wonderful father, husband and friend, Doyle said in a statement.
The governor credited Nilsestuen
for dramatically increasing Wisconsin's production of cheese and milk, promoting the development of biofuels to generate local renewable energy and ensuring that "farmers received the economic value of their work."
also was a respected leader in the cooperative movement.
Before he became the state's top agriculture official, Nilsestuen spent 24 years leading the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives, according to his biography on the department's website.
also helped found a national cooperative task force that resulted in federal investment in cooperative development, and held leadership roles in several regional and national cooperative groups, the biography said.
He was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and earned a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, according to the biography.