Farmers Split on Wisconsin Union Bill

For the past three weeks, protesters in Madison, Wisconsin have descended on the capitol to protest Governor Scott Walker’s budget bill. Most divisive is the Governor’s proposed removal of collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin unions. The debate over union rights has divided farmers across the state.

Several farm organizations, like the Dairy Business Association, have come out in favor of Walker’s bill. Citing fears over the deficit, DBA President Jerry Meissner praised Walker for his attempt to balance the budget without raising taxes or fees. Meissner and others thanked Walker for demonstrating leadership in his struggle with Wisconsin labor unions. Meissner is not the only farmer to support Walker. The state’s annual Agriculture Day divided farmers, with some joining the protesters at the capitol, but with others rallying to publicly support Walker.

Farm unions, on the other hand, have criticized Walker for his budget bill. Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden claimed that Walker is a poster child for anti-unionism. The WFU and the Family Farm Defenders organized a tractor-parade on Saturday, showing their support for unions and collective bargaining.

At the heart of the debate is the reliance of rural farmers on BadgerCare, state funded healthcare. Many small farmers worry that government cuts to BadgerCare could hurt their families and could impact their bottom line. Walker’s recent signing of the budget bill only promises to intensify debates within the agricultural community about the nature of unions and state healthcare costs.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer