Feb 17, 2017

Mega Factory Farms Contribute $100,000-plus to Buy, Deplete and Pollute Wisconsin Water

Pollute-and-Deplete Attack on Water Backed by Full-spectrum Dominance of Political Culture

The United States Department of Homeland Security, (DHS), maintains a vigilant commitment to protecting our water and wastewater systems sector.

We take clean water and the safe elimination of sewage for granted, a mark of a first-world country.

As the DHS explains: "Safe drinking water is a prerequisite for protecting public health and all human activity. Properly treated wastewater is vital for preventing disease and protecting the environment. Thus, ensuring the supply of drinking water and wastewater treatment and service is essential to modern life and the Nation’s economy."

Not all see protecting water the same way as DHS.

The threats to safe drinking water are here, industrialized agriculture or Big Ag.

Big Ag is without conscience, and almost every politician has their hands out for its money and support, and don't look for DHS to do anything.

Industrial special interests have no qualms about poisoning private water wells, and surface and ground water aquifers. Lost your safe drinking water, your infant is hospitalized? Dead areas in Lake Michigan? What are you going do about it? Call the EPA, the DNR?

In rural regions in Wisconsin, and not just Wisconsin, industrial agricultural operations (CAFOs or Confined/Concentrated Animal/Agricultural Operations), are annually dumping 100s of millions of gallons of untreated animal feces mixed with water into the environment to often tragic consequences, and it's getting worse.

Wisconsin Republicans, and many Democrats such as State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, (D-Milwaukee), are happy to take the money and endorsements of Big Ag and sell out our clean and safe water. Zamarripa has a safe near-southside Milwaukee assembly seat, so why not take any a few hundred bucks from ag interests and get an endorsement?

By Don Ystad of Adams County in central Wisconsin

Concerned Citizens,

While I don't want to politicize this issue, the following article points out the power play of the large ag concerns in our central sands area.  We saw it firsthand with the WPVGA, (Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association), junk science groundwater blitz of our county boards recently.  And, from the article, further evidence that the rush is on: "Most of these contributions, about $106,350, were also made during the last six months of 2016 after the GOP-controlled legislature failed to pass bills last spring aimed at loosening rules for controversial high-capacity wells".

So, let's build on the momentum from our Feb 8th statewide Citizens Water Lobby Day in Madison.  We need to be our own lobby, large enough to challenge the efforts of the big ag grower lobby.  Five hundred of us showed up on the 8th.  Join us and reach out to your friends and tell them to go to the link for the new Citizens Water Coalition of Wisconsin.

Be a part of this citizens lobby. We may not be able to outspend them, but we do have the votes!

From Matt Rothschild, of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Several large farms with an interest in the issue of high-capacity wells have been throwing tens of thousands of dollars over to Republican legislative campaign committees.

Until the drastic rewrite of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law in November 2015, it was illegal for farms or other corporations to give money directly to legislative campaign committees. But the new law allows them to give up to $12,000 in a so-called segregated account, which isn’t supposed to go toward electing specific candidates.

During the second half of 2016, several large potato, vegetable and cranberry farms made corporate contributions totaling $56,250 to the four legislative campaign committees, which are used by legislative leaders to milk special interests for campaign cash to spend on elections. Those contributions included:

  • $28,000 to the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee;
  • $21,200 to the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate;
  • $4,950 to the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee;
  • $2,100 to the State Senate Democratic Committee.

Several of the owners and employees of these farms also gave personal donations to the legislative campaign committees, including $27,200 to the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate and $12,900 to the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee. The two Democratic legislative campaign committees received a combined total of $4,900 from large farm owners or employees. Last month, GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, said he wants to approve a bill that would let high-capacity well owners repair or replace existing wells without a permit.

A review of the individual and business contributions to the legislative fundraising committees and legislators shows:
  • Most of the contributions, about $133,750, went to Republican lawmakers, and $12,450 went to Democrats. Republicans control the Assembly and Senate by margins of 64-35 and 20-13, respectively;
  • Most of these contributions, about $106,350, were also made during the last six months of 2016 after the GOP-controlled legislature failed to pass bills last spring aimed at loosening rules for controversial high-capacity wells;
  • Nine officers and board members of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, their families, workers and businesses made about $78,500 in contributions to legislators and legislative fundraising committees;
  • In addition to campaign contributions from its officers and board, the Vegetable Growers Association spent about $183,600 during the 2015-16 legislative session lobbying on high-capacity well, groundwater, wetlands, shore land zoning and other measures.
Topping the list of contributors to legislators and legislative fundraising committees were:
  • The Wysocki family, of Bancroft, their businesses and employees, $38,800;
  • Jeremie Pavelski, of Wisconsin Rapids, co-owner of Heartland Farms, $23,625;
  • James Mortenson, of Wisconsin Rapids, and Mortenson Brothers Farms, $17,750.
The farms want looser rules governing controversial high-capacity wells and groundwater that already allow them to draw 100,000 gallons of water a day for irrigation. But as the number of large farms has grown, the huge volume of water drawn by high-capacity wells has become a major concern, as rivers and streams throughout Wisconsin shrink or dry up during the summer.

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