Leader-Telegram | 4 April 2013
DOTYVILLE (AP) — A group representing Wisconsin farmers said its lobbying agenda this spring will include opposition to Gov. Scott Walker's plan to eliminate limits on foreign land ownership.
Currently, no foreign person, company or government can buy more than 640 acres of land in Wisconsin. A provision eliminating that cap is included in Walker's budget proposal, which the Legislature is reviewing.
"Under this proposal, any foreign individual, corporation or government can come in and buy up as much land as they want. This will drive up land prices so high that Wisconsinites won't be able to buy the neighbor's farm that comes up for sale or the neighboring 40 acres at a decent price that they can afford," Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden told the Fond du Lac Reporter.
"What's that going to do to the Wisconsin landscape and our ability to produce food for our people?" he added.
The group's legislative agenda also includes a push for expanding broadband services in rural areas. Von Ruden said many farm families still lack Internet access.
Another priority for farmers is persuading lawmakers to keep about $340,000 in funding for the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative. The program provides education and other support for dairy and beef farmers who use traditional grazing practices. Von Ruden said that group includes 42 percent of Wisconsin beef producers.
"A new farmer will consider grazing his animals first because it's a more efficient and economical way to get into farming," he said. "Plus, the program had a huge return on its investment."
But Von Ruden said overall he was concerned about what he sees as a diminishing influence among farmers and people living in rural areas.
"In the 1980s there were over 100,000 farms across the country. That number has dropped to less than 55,000 or less than 1 percent of the country's population," Von Ruden said. "We really don't have a voice on issues coming from the ag sector. WFU's goal is to communicate those views to legislators and state agencies so their voices can be heard."