If you care about the preservation of the family farm or if you or your children would like to purchase land in Wisconsin someday, you will want to read this.
There is a 127-year-old law called the Anti-Foreign Investment in Real Estate Law (A-FIRE) that prohibits foreign investors from purchasing more than 640 acres of land in Wisconsin. Gov. Scott Walker tried to slip repeal of the law into his budget last year, but farmers and a bipartisan group of legislators took note and cried foul.
The provision was taken out of the budget by the Joint Finance Committee only to re-emerge in an equally covert fashion nearly a year later. In a move that caught Agriculture Committee members off-guard and bypassed review by the full legislature, the Assembly Committee on Organization, chaired by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R–Rochester), sent the law to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen for review to determine if the law conflicts with U.S. trade treaties.
So why does the governor and some of our legislators want to see this law repealed without attracting attention? Maybe because it is difficult to say how repeal of A-FIRE would be good for Wisconsin. The only organization that has come forward to support the repeal of it is the Wisconsin Realtors Association. Little wonder. The more competition there is for land, the higher the land prices will be and the greater the commission to realtors.
So, who are these “foreigners” who want to buy farmland? It is actually large multinational corporations. That’s where the “foreign investment” comes in. What they do with the land is lease it back to farmers and make big, big profits from it. How can these corporations make so much money? We all know that farming is risky because of the uncertainty of weather conditions and commodity prices. The answer is that lease agreements are one to five years in length. The farmers assume the risk, not the investors.
Something else worth noting is that the real estate industry has since 2006 contributed over $200,000 in individual and political action committee contributions to J.B. Van Hollen. Does anyone see a conflict of interest here?
The bottom line is that Wisconsin is not going to be better off when family farms are replaced by tenant farms. Our politicians know that, which is why they are keeping this issue under the radar. It is up to us to ask then for an explanation.
Mary Jo Kawalski
Not an AFC fan
The American Federation for Children sounds like a loving, caring organization with only one goal: health and safety of children. But don’t be fooled.
When I ran for the state Assembly in 2010 this allegedly child-friendly group spent some $30,000 on deceptive — even shameful — mailings trying to trash my candidacy. Voters of the 51st Assembly District and 17th Senate District — the whole state, for that matter — can expect more of the same this year, funding of campaign materials by the American Federation for Children, not to advocate for children but to attack all Democrats. They will use their surplus of money and deficit of scruples to go after Dick Cates, Ernie Wittwer and other Democrats as they did me.
Wisconsin voters should look at the source of any campaign material they receive; by law the funding group must be cited on the material. Then, call or write them, demanding proof of questionable accusations. Above all, don’t be fooled.
Simonson lost the 2010 51st Assembly District race to Rep. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green).
Fed up with the Fed
Two of my favorite phrases are “Trust, but verify” and “You get the results you inspect, not the results you expect.”
These phrases are true for management and parenting, and are essential for responsible government. For the federal government, the Office of the Inspector General has the responsibility to perform detailed audits of many government agencies. An example of good government accountability is the OIG audit performed last June that found more than 1,000 Internal Revenue Service agents had misused their government charge cards and had written a total of 325 bad checks.
Conversely, accountability of the Federal Reserve Bank, which has significantly more impact on our country’s financial stability than the IRS, is not as strong. Since 1978, the Government Accountability Office has conducted regular Fed audits; however, the GAO is not allowed to review the Fed’s monetary policy decision-making or disclosing it to the public. Instead, since 1999, the Fed has had an external accounting firm perform the review, which submits a confidential report to the Fed and a summary statement that the Fed includes in its annual public report.
On March 14, the Fed released its 2013 annual report, which demonstrates how massive the Fed is. The Fed held $4 trillion of our country’s assets (a $1.1 trillion increase from 2012). The Fed made a profit of $81.4 billion, of which $79.6 billion was remitted to the U.S. Treasury.
The question is: Were the Fed’s 2013 monetary policy decisions made in the best interest of U.S. citizens, or designed to make the most profit from U.S. Citizens? We don’t know because as previously stated, their policy decision meetings are private; however, their 2013 profits looked pretty darn good!
During the 2012 presidential election, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R–Texas) reintroduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act to eliminate the Fed’s secrecy by requiring detailed, transparent audits. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives; however, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D–La Crosse) voted against it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked the bill from reaching the Senate floor for a vote.
Why did these Democrats oppose a bill that would improve Fed transparency? Did they have motives other than to protect us from big bank and wall street profiteering?
Ken Van Doren is running against Ron Kind and is the only Third Congressional District candidate committed to moving the Federal Reserve Transparency Act forward.
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