Rod Nilsestuen, leader of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, died while swimming in Lake Superior. He was 62.
Nilsestuen, who was appointed by Governor Jim Doyle in 2003, drowned in the lake while on a vacation trip with his family. Doyle noted that Nilsestuen was an internationally recognized leader in the field of cooperative agriculture and that he made sure those who use farm equipment got the most from their work.
"Rod Nilsestuen was a visionary agriculture leader," Doyle said. "He is one of the most important agriculture leaders in Wisconsin history."
Randy Romanski, deputy secretary for the DATCP, also pointed to Nilsestuen's role as a visionary, adding that the policies put in place during his time have led to a resurgence in the state's farming economy.
"His belief in investing in agriculture at all levels has helped diversify Wisconsin's agricultural economy," Romanski said.
Romanski also said that Nilsestuen's tenure as agriculture secretary saw record highs in the state's milk, cheese and specialty cheese production efforts.