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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Defending Family Farms: Tractorcade Protest in Madison, WI

This farmer was rockin' the parade with a trailer of drums.
 Our blog has been somewhat on a hiatus for the past month; we've been protesting at the State Capitol.Both of us are teachers, so we are worried about the future of education as we fear the government is moving education towards more and more privatization, but this blog isn't about that. It's about another set of our values: local food, sustainable living, and small-scale, family-owned farms, during this time of corporate, big business controlled agriculture. Our motivation for writing this entry is not to offend or sway, but simply to express our perspective on how this bill will affect small- and medium-sized family farms.

On March 12th, 53 tractors drove around the Capitol, while over 100,000 protesters shouted, "Thank you, thank you!"  Farmers decided to join in solidarity with other public workers and supporters, in part, because of the following effects this bill willh ave on them:
  • Collective bargaining rights are essential for farmers' co-ops. Farmers involved are worried that they will be next on the chopping block. The Vice President of Family Farm Defenders and a dairy farmer himself, Greeno, said, "“Collective bargaining rights are the principles that all of our co-ops operate on. And if they start eroding collective bargaining rights for workers, farmers in co-ops are just next on the chopping block, so if we don’t stand together and defend our rights, we all going to take cuts in turn.”
  • Farmers who operate Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are  concerned that their programs will be cut due to other public workers' salaries being cut. They've noted that many of their members are teachers and other public workers.
  • Badger Care and Medicaid programs funding will be put in the hands of the current government administration. Their intentions are to cut the program. Many farmers have Badger Care; it's a taxpayer-subsidized program, and most farmers can't afford other programs. This bill will effectively cut the only insurance many farmers can afford, thereby making it even more difficult for small farms to sustain themselves.
  • Sustainable agriculture programs such as Buy Local Buy Wisconsin will be slashed and gutted.
  • Wisconsin's farmland preservation program will be cut. At the time the program was created, over 30,000 acres of farmland were lost per year. The cuts will undermine the efforts to preserve farmland from development which would make agriculture impossible and the efforts to build agricultural business on those lands.
All in all, many farmers feel Walker's bill is harmful! And they came out to show their support! Here are some of our favorite pictures from the Tractorcade.

Here's said trailer of drums.

It was an inspirational day. One can only hope that this bill will not impede on all of the efforts over the past years to make small-scale farming sustainable and local eating for all possible.

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