Wisconsin Farmers Union

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The Wisconsin Farmers Union, started in 1930 was implemented to help struggling farmers. It is a member ran organization dedicated to helping farmers and people in rural areas in Wisconsin. Through their three core principles: cooperation, education, and legislation, they help farmers in Wisconsin sustain a higher standard of living. The main headquarters is located in Chippewa Falls.[1]

Guy on tractor.jpg [2]

History

The first Wisconsin Farmers convention was in Menominee in 1930. It became a member of the National Farmers Union on November 14, 1930. There had been previous attempts to create the organization in the 1920s, but although there was support by farmers, the attempts failed. The Wisconsin Farmers Union power comes from the local level. Delegates at the state and national level are elected by local farmers. The youth program was created in the 1930s amid the Great Depression. The youth program brought many of the progressive ideas that the Farmers Union is based around. The start of the Wisconsin Farmers Union sparked the country to see the importance of agriculture in Wisconsin. This increased the demand to maintain family and local farms, which sparked the creation of organizations like the Soil Conservation Service, the Production Marketing Administration, the Commodity Credit Corporation, the Farm Credit Administration and the Rural Electrification Administration, all dedicated to maintaining grassroots farms. [3]

What They Do

Cooperation

The Wisconsin Farmers Union is dedicated to finding new ways to help family farmers and rural communities. They cooperate with all members to help the future of rural Wisconsin. One example of this is the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative or WFHC. The WFHC is a group run by farmers, dedicated to maintaining profitable markers for producers. It is owned by farmers, the community, and the Wisconsin Farmers Union. WFHC has a website (www.wifoodhub.com) which makes it easier for farmers to find buyers for their produce. Another organization that the Farmers Union is invested in is Fifth Season. Fifth Season is a way to match producers with local purchasers, including UW- La Crosse. [4]

Education

The Wisconsin Farmers Union provides many forms of education to members. Some examples are Solar Power Workshops, Climate Change Solution Workshops, Renewable Energy Tours, and Farm Bill Listening sessions. Each month there is a newsletter which tells about past and upcoming events. The newsletter also has articles that talk about new laws, recipes, and ways to get involved. The April 2017 newsletter talks about the WFU Women’s trip to San Diego for a conference in which 37 members made the trip to California. The WFU also has a youth program which can be joined by anyone in first grade through high school.[5] Youth activities include Kamp Kenwood, conventions, trips, and other forms of education.[6]

Legislation

The WFU is involved in legislation through education, leadership training, and involvement in the democratic process. They have a policy team that stays up to date with legislation that effects WFU members. These issues include food systems, frac sand, rural schools, health, land and water conservation, education and technology, energy, international trade and federal farm policy, and good government. There are info sheets on the WFU website that include information on legislation in easy terms so that anyone can understand them and what they mean to farmers. At the annual WFU convention, delegates come up with ideas that the WFU recommends to state legislators. The WFU’s monthly newsletter also keeps farmers and people in rural areas up to date on any new legislation.[7] Another important part of the Wisconsin Farmers Union's ideals is it is one of few interest groups that does not endorse politicians running for offices. This is because the Wisconsin Farmers Union instead focuses on interests of farmers and rural people. The Wisconsin Farmers Union was an organizer of the tractor rally in Madison in 2011. This rally was key in drawing attention to important legislative issues including governor Scott Walker's budget plan. [8] In 2017 the WFU laid out there positions on key legislative issues. One main concern is the issue of the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United. The WFU is against the decision because they do not think corporations should be treated as people and money should not be treated as speech. They also expressed their worry with Trump’s tax plan. The WFU feels that due to the money that is going to be lost because of tax cuts, the military spending should be cut to try and equal out the balance. They also oppose the cut of taxes if it will lead to the loss of funds in programs like Social Security and Medicare. The WFU also feels that more testing and data is needed on the groundwater to ensure safe drinking water. Other issues include removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, more support for solar energy, increased road funding, and limiting vertical integration in agriculture so that family farms can survive. [9]

WFU Triangle.jpg [10]

Membership

Membership is a very important part of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, using grassroots mobilization. Memberships help raise money for the Wisconsin Farmers Union, while also giving many important benefits to members.

Benefits

There are many benefits for becoming a member of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. Education Programs and Member Events are offered to Wisconsin Farmer Union members. One benefit is meetings with legislators in Madison and Washington, D.C. to talk about important policies involving farming. Members also receive free subscriptions to the Wisconsin Farmer Union news articles. The Wisconsin Farmers Union provides discounts to dental and vision insurance through Noridian Insurance Services Inc. Hastings Mutual Farm Insurance provides a 9% discount on farm insurances to Wisconsin Farmers Union members. There are also many other benefits from many different sponsors, some of these include buying farm equipment and hotel lodging.[11]

Grants

The WFU foundation offers small grants to farmers or projects in rural areas. They are usually between $200 and $500.[12]In order to be qualified for a WFU grant any request must fit the WFU foundation mission, “The Wisconsin Farmers Union Foundation supports projects and programs for all ages that foster family farming, rural life and public education on the important role of cooperatives and agriculture in society.” Previous earners of grants include the WI Dairy & Beef Well-Being Conference and the Cornucopia Institute. [13]

Funding

The primary way the Wisconsin Farmers Union is funded is from memberships. Membership pricing varies between one year costing 30 dollars to a lifetime costing 2000 dollars. Another way the Wisconsin Farmers Union is funded is through generous donations. One of the ways the Wisconsin Farmers Union receives donations is through their annual hosting of the Big Share which is an online donation event. This year the Big Share raised 10,000 dollars for the Wisconsin Farmers Union.[14]

Organization

The WFU believes in power in numbers. In their 1939 informational newsletter they laid out 14 reasons why farmers must organize. Some of the reasons included: “organize to bring agriculture its fair share of the national income” and “organize because agricultural conditions will steadily but slowly become worse and worse until we see the need of the Farmers Equity Union.” [15] The WFU is built around the idea that in order to achieve their goals they need participation from farmers. This is why membership in the WFU is so important not only for their economic issues but legislative as well. The more members in the WFU, the more power they have to influence lawmakers’ decisions. [16]

WFU Kamp Kenwood

Kamp Kenwood was started in the 1940s, through help from farmers, WFU members, and locals, this camp located on Lake Wissota was built. Named after former WFU president Ken Hones, this camp offers “people of all ages to come together to celebrate, to learn, and to enjoy family, friends, and nature.”[17]Kamp Kenwood is 23 acres, with cabins, hiking trails, beaches, and a lodge. Kamp Kenwood holds annual summer camps for children and families. The educational camp focuses on sustainability, leadership, conservation, rural communities, and many other topics surrounding farming. Some activities include hiking, campfires, swimming, sports, workshops, and arts and crafts.[18]

References

  1. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "History and Mission," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/history-mission
  2. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "History and Mission," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/history-mission
  3. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "History and Mission," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/history-mission
  4. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "Cooperation," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/cooperation
  5. Mary Jo Borchardt, "WFU women stand out at Women's Conference," WFU News, April 2017, 4-5, see 5.
  6. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "Education," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/education
  7. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "Legislation," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/legislation
  8. Bill Berry, "The Cap Times," 2011, http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/column/bill_berry/bill-berry-wisconsin-farmers-union-raising-more-hell-than-corn/article_2809f869-50c8-5bfb-9596-ca09fd7b39a0.html
  9. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "Wisconsin Farmers Union members set 2017 policy priorities," 2017, http://www.thewheelerreport.com/wheeler_docs/files/0131wfu.pdf
  10. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "History and Mission," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/history-mission
  11. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "Membership," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/membership
  12. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "Grant Program," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/grant-program
  13. WFU Foundation, "Funding available through WFU Foundation grants," WFU News, April 2017, 9, see 9.
  14. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "Membership," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/membership
  15. The State of Wisconsin Collection, "The Farmers Equity Union," 2017, http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/WI/WI-idx?type=turn&entity=WI.FarmEquUnion.p0005&id=WI.FarmEquUnion&isize=M
  16. The State of Wisconsin Collection, "The Farmers Equity Union," 2017, http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/WI/WI-idx?type=turn&entity=WI.FarmEquUnion.p0005&id=WI.FarmEquUnion&isize=M
  17. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "Kamp Kenwoord," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/kamp-kenwood
  18. Wisconsin Farmers Union, "Kamp Kenwoord," 2017, http://www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/kamp-kenwood

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