WI farmers group proposes land ownership rule changes - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

WI farmers group proposes land ownership rule changes in Gov. Walker's budget proposal

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A state farmers group is speaking out against Governor Scott Walker's plan to eliminate limits on foreign land ownership.

Officials from the Wisconsin Farmers Union is going on a statewide Spring Tour to discuss the governor's proposed budget.

A provision in Walker's budget proposal would allow a foreign person, company or government to buy more than 640 acres of land in Wisconsin; something that is currently not allowed.

"Under this proposal, any foreign individual, corporation or government can come in and buy up as much land as they want," Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden told the Fond du Lac Reporter. "This will drive up land prices so high that Wisconsinites won't be able to buy the neighbor's farm that comes up for sale or the neighboring 40 acres at a decent price that they can afford. What's that going to do to the Wisconsin landscape and our ability to produce food for our people?" 

Von Ruden said state officials should be protecting the state's assets instead of allowing foreign countries to swoop in.

WFU's legislative agenda also includes a push for expanding broadband services in rural areas. Von Ruden said many farm families still lack Internet access.

Another priority for WFU is to convince legislators to keep the $344,980 in state funds for the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative. The funds support education and the state's dairy and beef producers who use traditional grazing practices, which Von Ruden says is 42 percent of Wisconsin beef producers.

"A new farmer will consider grazing his animals first because its a more efficient and economical way to get into farming," Von Ruden said. "Plus, the program had a huge return on its investment."

According to Von Ruden, the amount of influence from rural communities is diminishing. He said the number of farms in the U.S. has dropped from 100,000 in the 1980s, to less than 55,000 today.

"We really don't have a voice on issues coming from the Ag sector," Von Ruden said. "WFU's goal is to communicate those views to legislators and state agencies so their voices can be heard."

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