WFU meets in Fond du Lac

Gloria Hafemeister
During their annual WFU Chapter meeting in Fond du Lac last week, members of the Dodge/Fond du Lac/Sheboygan/Ozaukee chapter of Wisconsin Farmers Union elected officers and discussed resolutions to be presented to the state WFU convention for consideration in January.  Officers include (left to rgith) Rick Adamski, Merribel, district director; Darin Von Ruden, state WFU president; Agnes Jaeger, chapter secretary/treasurer; Joe Schauer, chapter vice president; and Joel Narges, chapter president.

Fond du Lac — Eminent domain, climate change, energy, insurance and the Farm Bill were on the minds of Wisconsin Farmers Union members when they gathered for the annual meeting of the Dodge/Fond du Lac/Sheboygan/Ozaukee WFU Chapter meeting in Fond du Lac.

Policies committee chair Mike Slattery presented resolutions to the group for discussion and approval. These resolutions will now be taken to the state Farmers Union meeting in January for further consideration and action.

Topping the list of concerns is the Farmers Union’s opposition to the implementation and use of eminent domain whereby unrelated private entities, be they individuals or corporations, become the beneficiaries of farmers’ or private persons’ assets and no direct benefit to local public occurs.

Slattery pointed to the 2005 Kelo vs. New London, CN case in which the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of private development of an unrelated third party’s interest because public benefits would accrue to the district (streets, sidewalks, employment and income tax revenue). In this case, the four dissenting judges opined that the use of eminent domain in taking one private citizen’s assets for the benefit of another private citizen and their profits would create a reverse Robin Hood.

“Increasingly in the U.S. society, corporate power and control is adversely working against the interests of private citizens and small entrepreneurs," Slattery said.

Regarding the climate control resolution, Slattery said, “There is no policy on this at the national level for Farmers Union, but I believe we need one now.”

The resolutions states, “Climate change is happening and is caused by human activity and there is no acceptable justification for either federal or state authorities to avoid implementing the various means to correct in an expeditious manner the adverse effects of climate change.”

Regarding alternative energy production on small and mid-sized farms, the group approved a resolution opposing raising the connection rates for public utilities to acquire electricity from individual home-owners and farmers beyond the present levels and in some cases advocates lowering these rates and costs, which exceed the actual cost of connection equipment.”

Also approved is a resolution requiring cost sharing to be available to assist anyone who installs some form of alternative energy production systems and that the financial assistance from the state not be limited to the larger farms that install anaerobic digesters.

The group also opposes any and all privatization of Medicare or payment limitation subsidy and advocates for increasing the payroll withholding tax rate to assure Medicare trust fund remains solvent.

As for the state’s Medicaid and Badger Care, the group calls for the state to apply Medicaid eligibility at least to 138 percent of poverty level.

The organization is calling for an increase in Department of Natural Resources staff “to monitor the performance of high capacity wells and concentrated animal feeding operations to ensure the integrity of and long-term adequacy of natural resources and the protection of the health of the citizenry in their respective areas.”

In a similar resolution, they oppose any weakening of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Regarding the Clean Water Act, the group advocates for more agronomic practices such as cover-cropping, no or reduced tillage, inserting more small grains into the rotation, terracing on highly erodible land and enhanced butter strips.

The organization would also like to see nutritional programs remain a part of the formulation of the US Farm Bill, noting that farms produce food, not just commodities, and the two are closely tied.

New officers

In addition to reviewing resolutions to be presented at the state convention, the chapter also re-elected officers for the coming year. Joel Narges will continue as chapter president; Agnes Jaeger was re-elected as secretary-treasurer; and Joe Schauer was re-elected as vice president.

The members learned that the chapter made a profit of $800 at the annual brat fry and discussed how the funds will be best spent.

Support entrepreneurs

The group has invested $400 in the nonprofit KIVA fund, and the group decided to add an additional $400 to that investment.

Kiva is an international nonprofit, founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Funds support people looking to create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.

By lending this money to Kiva, anyone can help a borrower start or grow a business, go to school, access clean energy or realize their potential. For some, it’s a matter of survival; for others it’s the fuel for a life-long ambition.

The $400 the organization had previously invested was used to fund several individuals in the Philippines. The additional funding approves is designated to help, through the same organization, those in need in another country.

Director's report

Rick Adamski, a Seymour beef producer, talked about the need for all farmers to work together for the common good of agriculture.

Adamski has been involved with advocacy groups since the 1980s farm crisis and said, “Small or large, we all want to make a living. We have many forces trying to divide us, even internally within agriculture, but we need to find common ground.”

He also expressed concern about the need to raise what farmers are paid for their labor and not just look at a return on investment.

State Farmers Union President Darrin Von Ruden described activities of the state organization during the last year and talked about projects supported by the organization. He also urged members to attend the state convention and have a voice in the establishment of state FU policies and activities.