Friday, March 1, 2019

Farms crises slam rural WI. GOP lawmakers oppose one lifeline.

Wisconsin is called the Dairy State, but Republican legislators want no part of Gov. Evers budget plan to ease smaller dairies' family, labor, family and financial problems.

Media, here, and this blog often have reported on the pressures that are driving some Wisconsin farms and small dairies 
out of business.
Dairy farming is dying. After 40 years, I’m done.
Their owners into bankruptcy.
Western Wisconsin Led Nation In Farm Bankruptcies In 2017
Even suicide.
Agriculture professionals seek ways to spot signs of suicidal thoughts in dairy farmers
Everyone knows that one dilemma facing dairy farmers is that local help for their operations' tough work is hard to find, and that the gap has been filled by immigrant labor, sometimes undocumented, to keep at-risk farms and their surrounding small businesses and communities in business:
...a majority of dairy farmers are very concerned about actions such as immigration raids or employee audits. Despite this, 80 percent of dairy farms surveyed continue to hire immigrants.
Which is why one Wisconsin expert wrote last year:
Immigrant workers and their families bring their skills and ambitions into Wisconsin, breathing new life into the state’s rural communities. Hired workers, regardless of origin, boost the strength of the state’s dairy industry and also enable dairy farmers to take vacations and have some time off during the day to attend their children’s sporting events or other community activities.
Although immigrant employees are a crucial component of the economic viability of dairy farms, the employer-employee relationship is fraught with legal and economic vulnerabilities. Some immigrant farm workers lack legal authorization to work and live in the U.S., which exposes both employers and employees to increased risk, threatening agricultural investment.
Wisconsin’s growing reliance on immigrant labor presents challenges, yet can also serve as a call to develop programs and policies that will improve conditions for immigrant employees and families, as well as maintain a dependable farm labor force.
So to make it easier for immigrant workers to get to work, drive the kids to school and get supplies for the farm or their tables, Gov. Evers is proposing a fee-and-exam-based drivers' licensing program for immigrant workers whose status may be questionable while their value to the farm and their communities is not.
We’re announcing tonight that undocumented folks will be eligible to receive driver’s licenses and ID cards," Evers is to say in his speech, according to excerpts released Thursday. "This makes our roads and our communities safer, and helps strengthen our economy and Wisconsin families."
Just watch GOP Wisconsin legislators stampede to the nearest microphone - - Republican Sen. Roger Roth is already calling it a "non-starter" - - to say "no" - - continuing their string of negative actions that hurt the state's smaller farms, like enabling bigger dairy operator/donors, cutting back on pollution inspections and helping drive up the big suppliers' output

In fact, GOP leaders say they will throw out Evers' budget and write their own.

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