For Immediate Release: January 16, 2014
Contact: Rebekah Sweeney, (608) 266-3790
Jorgensen Questions Republicans’ New Push to Allow Sale of Wisconsin Land to Other Countries
MADISON – State Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Milton) today questioned the Republican motivation in requesting the Attorney General’s opinion on a 127-year ban on foreign ownership of more than 640 acres of Wisconsin land and how it relates to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) treaty. Governor Scott Walker had proposed an end to the ban in his budget last year.
“Outrage over this idea forced Republicans to drop it from the budget, and I don’t think public sentiment has changed,” said Jorgensen. “Now, Republicans are trying to, quietly, lift the ban on foreign ownership. But, I believe we should not jeopardize Wisconsin’s heritage and our precious natural resources for a quick buck.”
Jorgensen notes that a lift on the foreign ownership ban could result in countries like China swooping in and buying up big chunks of prime Wisconsin farmland. As foreign companies work the soil, they could cut Wisconsin farm families right out of the agricultural industry – and damage our economy, for years and years to come.
“I grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, and families like mine value our state’s farming tradition,” said Jorgensen. “Instead of thinking about the short-term gain of a land sale or a happy donor, Republicans should be thinking about what folks want the future of Wisconsin to look like.”
Jorgensen, who sits on the Assembly Committee on Organization, voted against the Republican request for an official opinion from Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on the state statute which outlines the foreign ownership ban.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Attorney General – also a Republican – finds a way to make the ban unenforceable,” said Jorgensen. “Then, Wisconsin land will be up for sale to the highest bidder, no matter where that bidder comes from or how they plan to use the land.”
In the latest report from the federal Farm Service Agency, foreign ownership of land in Wisconsin nearly doubled in 2011, and now totals 233,519 acres.