Sewing the seeds for a big season of recalls

In perhaps the most awe-inspiring show of solidarity since Wisconsinites began protesting Governor Scott Walker’s extreme budget measures nearly a month ago, farmers from across the state joined protesters in a tractorcade around the Capitol Square.  It was the start of what would prove to be the largest day yet of protests, despite the Governor signing on Friday his controversial proposal to strip public employees of most union rights.

For the farmers who made it to the capitol, it was not only a chance to show solidarity with the other Wisconsin working families but also an opportunity draw attention to the potential impacts Walker’s  proposals will have on Wisconsin farm families. From the Capital Times:

“This isn’t us versus them, with farmers siding with union employees,” says Scott Schultz, executive director of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. “In rural farm communities, Walker’s budget is hitting home in a number of ways.”

Although unions and collective bargaining have strong roots in the farm industry — the Wisconsin Farmers Union began in the 1930s — Peck says Saturday’s rallies are about more than preserving union rights.

Peck says many of those coming to Madison are upset by the realization that Walker’s agenda is “sacrificing Wisconsin’s quality of life for everyone, not just unions.”

“There are other things going on here. If BadgerCare is wiped out or scaled back, a lot of these people won’t have health care anymore,” Peck says.

Roughly 11,000, or one in seven, farmers and their family members receive health coverage through BadgerCare, according to the Wisconsin Farmers Union.

In additional to sharply curtailed healthcare access, under Governor Walker’s budget proposals rural communities may face a public education crisis.  Governor Walker’s budget cuts hundreds of millions from public education in the state (interestingly, it raises funding for charter and choice school).  But Walker’s budget does not give school districts any tools to increase revenues to offset cuts and instead only allows districts to cut (obviously Walker prefers the cuts to come out of the paychecks of middle-class teachers). But for very rural districts with fewer services and even fewer teachers, it will be hard to find enough to cut without dramatically impacting the quality of education rural students receive.  For a wealthier district, or districts closer to larger cities, it might be possible to consolidate services with other schools to find cuts.  But for rural schools, where students are often already bused for miles to attend a single high school that serves many farm communities, it will also be difficult to find more ways to consolidate without risking rural students’ ability to access comparable services.

Without good school systems, many rural communities may see dwindling populations as those who can afford to move to areas with better services will be far more likely to do so. For the rural students whose parents can not move, it will mean they no longer have access to the same level of education and opportunity as their suburban counterparts. For the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites, like myself, who descend from Wisconsin farm families and who share a deep passion for preserving Wisconsin’s family farm culture, Walker’s budget proposals will lead to a devastating and potentially irreversible disintegration of the lifestyle that brought our ancestors across oceans to sew Wisconsin’s rich farmland. Walker’s proposals are a betrayal of our fundamental support of rural living and truly shows that his values and not Wisconsin values.

Below are more images from Saturday’s Tractorcade:

4th Generation Badger with this tractor

One little legislator at a time

An "S" and a "Y" spell solidarity

Hope sustains Wisconsin farmers

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