For Wisconsinites, farming isn’t just a large part of our economy; it’s a way of life. Farming is the center of many of our rural communities here in western Wisconsin. Farmers shop on main street, send their kids to the local public schools, fill our plates and grow local job opportunities. Our landscape is dotted with family farms, and many of our families share roots that run deep with farming heritage.
Yet farming is a rapidly disappearing profession, as low commodity prices and tariffs undercut earning potential and rapidly growing factory farms put small family farms out of business. This past year alone, more Midwestern farmers declared bankruptcy than they did at the start of the economic recession. Put frankly, the economic news is bleak for farmers.
That’s why it is so distressing that in the 80 minutes of the State of the Union address this week, President Trump failed to even mention the word “farmers,” let alone discuss their tremendous economic burden.
You might suspect that this was a simple oversight, but in a speech in which every word matters, Trump’s omission is telling. Rather than a serious roadmap for how we can steer our country forward, the president offered campaign slogans and bleak one liners.
Farming was the most notable oversight of the night, but much of President Trump’s speech glossed over rural America’s most significant challenges. Public schools, the opioid epidemic, senior care, clean water, climate change, and mental health services were all strikingly absent from the evening.
Instead, we were subject to the same old talking points that have so far lacked action. In the two years since President Trump has taken office, where has the action on infrastructure investment been? How about the long promised paid parental leave and child care tax credits? Or more resources to combat the opioid epidemic?
This was a campaign rally, rather than a strategic plan. But what we desperately need right now is a strategic plan that serves all Americans, especially those living in rural America.
That’s exactly why I’m excited by the alternative vision for America outlined this week — The Green New Deal. Named for the bold reforms enacted by Congress in the 1930s to alleviate the impact of The Great Recession, The Green New Deal seeks to mitigate the impacts of climate change by investing in American workers, green technologies and improved public services. The Green New Deal is just what rural Wisconsin (and America) needs to grow and thrive.
Take farming. The Green New Deal calls for “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers” to invest in technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, to support family farms, to improve soil health and to ensure that our food system guarantees universal access to healthy foods. Many farmers are already working hard to do this on their own, but the continued economic hardship many farmers are facing makes it difficult to get by, let alone make massive investments in farm technologies.
When our farmers prosper, we all prosper.
The Green New Deal is about building resiliency in your own community, regardless of where you live. It’s about amassing the resources of the federal government to benefit the many, and not just the few. It’s about ensuring that rural Americans have just as much of a shot at a prosperous economic future as urban and suburban Americans do. And it’s about working together to combat one of the most pressing issues of our time — climate change.
Tremendous challenges require bold action. The time to invest in America’s future is now. Instead of more tax breaks for the wealthy or a wall on our southern border, what if we instead re-imagined what is possible for our communities and our futures? Time and time again our nation has met insurmountable challenges with courage. With the clock ticking on climate change, and time running out for too many working families, will we have the political courage to do what is necessary?
Besides, what have we got to lose? At worst, we have cleaner water, more efficient infrastructure, stronger farms and healthier communities. That’s a deal I’d take any day.