In the last week campaign ads attacking Wisconsin Farmers Union have gone from false and sarcastic to downright bizarre — attacking state senate candidate Kriss Marion for positions that Wisconsin Farmers Union took before she was even a member, or positions that WFU has never taken at all.
Take a look at the fine print, and you’ll notice the ads are funded by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, a group backed by undisclosed donors. The attack ads against Marion are essentially identical to ads that attempted to ridicule Farmers Union member Jeff Peck for his ties to the family farm organization back in 2014.
These attacks diminish the dignity of democracy and are out of step with Wisconsin values like honesty and civility. They are also not in keeping with the collaboration that we aspire to in our rural communities. Just last week, in fact, Wisconsin Farmers Union collaborated with DATCP, Farm Bureau, DBA, PDPW, and Dairy Girl Network to put on a session at the World Dairy Expo about Farm Employment in Wisconsin.
So what is Wisconsin Farmers Union? We’re an organization of farmers and rural residents from all over the state who believe in a fair farm economy and thriving rural communities. In the face of negativity in our political system and in the farm economy, we persist in our belief in democracy and in the ingenuity of farmers and rural entrepreneurs. We think that the best government is the one that is closest to the people. We believe that rural residents have the same right to clean water, decent health care, and fast internet as our urban counterparts do.
There are times that Wisconsin Farmers Union politely disagrees with politicians of both parties. At the end of the day, our loyalties lie with our members and rural communities, not with any party or politician.
In 2012, for example, we were the only major ag organization that questioned Governor Walker’s Dairy 30x20 plan to increase milk production in the state, believing that ramping up milk production, without having anywhere to sell it, was short-sighted. The current flood of milk on the market and resulting low prices have demonstrated the wisdom of that position.
Instead of slogans or quick fixes to the dairy economy, Wisconsin Farmers Union is bringing together farmers from every organization (and no organization at all) through the Dairy Together campaign to work together for comprehensive dairy policy reform that balances supply and demand.
We form cooperatives like the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative, launched in 2012, to help farmers access new markets and build the regional food economy. We hosted and co-sponsored over 30 pasture walks and on-farm events this year to help farmers share best practices for conserving soil and protecting water resources.
Wisconsin Farmers Union does not endorse candidates or make campaign donations. We do advocate for policy positions — that are established by our grassroots membership — and stand by our values. Political attack ads violate our values of honesty, collaboration, and civility. That’s one of the reasons that we have long advocated for reining in campaign spending, so that races are decided on the issues, rather than on sensational claims by dark money groups with undisclosed donors.
In 2015, Governor Walker and the legislature made significant changes to state law pertaining to campaign finance and elections fairness. For example, AB388/SB294 dismantled the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board and replaced it with Ethics and Elections boards comprised of political appointees.
Another bill, AB387/SB292, doubled the limits on direct contributions to candidates, allowed unlimited donations from individuals to political parties, and permitted corporations, for the first time in more than 100 years in Wisconsin, to give directly to political parties. It also allowed candidates to coordinate directly with outside “issue ad” groups to run attack ads against their opponents.
Wisconsin Farmers Union urges all voters to ask the candidates about their voting record on campaign spending laws, and what they will do to put a stop to mudslinging political ads.