May 1, 2017

Wisconsin Citizen Activism Fights Against Big Ag

Clean water activists in Saratoga, Wisconsin fight for
water and oppose the siting of a proposed factory farm.
On Tuesday, May 2 the Wisconsin legislature will hold key vote(s) on a radical new policy that would obliterate protection for ground and surface waters.

Republicans exercise total control in the gerrymandered legislature and bear responsibility for the results.

By Don Ystad

Concerned friends and neighbors,

Here in Rome, Wisconsin it's not hard to project what life would be like were our lakes to be drained like Huron and others in the central sands around us. Imagine the effect on the $3/4 billion in property valuation around the lakes in Rome, and the reduced spending in area businesses as visitors stopped coming. Those are the concerns being ignored by our legislators and the agriculture lobbies as they consider fast tracking SB 76. They appear blind to the $20 billion in state tourism revenue affected, the quality of life of residents who enjoy these lakes, and the effect on local communities when their tax base erodes because the lakes have diminished.

Consider that our legislators in Wisconsin are being bought off for a paltry quarter of a million dollars per year by ag lobbyists. That is peanuts compared to the value of your combined lake properties. In Adams County alone, lakes properties account for one billion dollars in valuation, nearly a half of the counties $2,2 billion valuation. Agriculture; less than 1%. You pay the taxes, and the ag industry gets the benefit. And, we're ruining our lakes to boot, as 3 of our 4 in Rome are on the state's impaired list. If this doesn't stir you to action, you share some responsibility in allowing this to happen.

The solution?  Citizen activism. Speaking out. Sending letters and e-mails. Let your representatives know there is a down side to ignoring your rights. There are over 5,000 lakes area property owners in Rome. Thousands more in Adams County, and twice that in our whole central sands area. And, ten times more lake property owners than farmers in this state. And, we are allowing a lobby funded by a few dozen industrial farmers and growers and their suppliers to determine the future of our lakes, streams and drinking water wells. We have to speak out, and we have to stop voting in the people who blatantly ignore our rights to clean and abundant water. And, before you slam me as being anti-agriculture, consider that four generations of my family milked dairy cows in Clark County, WI. These big ag interests are doing the same to family farmers as they are doing to us, and that's not good for any of us. Where politics is concerned, silence is consent.

By Todd Richmond - Associated Press

TOWN OF OASIS, WISCONSIN - Cris Van Houten thought he was getting a little bit of paradise when he built his house on Huron Lake in Wisconsin’s central sands region. He could look out from his deck at the blue water and scuba dive in the shallows.

Less than 10 years later, he and his neighbors are watching their beloved lake dry up. The shoreline has receded at least 20 feet, leaving Van Houten with a new beach he never wanted, his dock high and dry, and scuba diving impossible.

Like other lake property owners, Van Houten blames the high-capacity water wells serving agriculture, particularly potato farmers. As the number of wells grows, Wisconsin finds itself in an unexpected fight. Despite being bordered on three sides by Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River and cross-hatched with innumerable rivers, streams and lakes, the state no longer can take water for granted.

"We’re all pretty sick of what’s going on here," Van Houten, 73, said. "We’re losing our lake to make junk food."

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