My name is Terry VanDerPol. I farm in the western part of the state in the Minnesota River Valley outside of Granite Falls. I raise cattle and I’m a member of Land Stewardship Project.
I am here to say that we can have a society that provides healthcare for all, quality education for all, healthy land, clean water, nutritious food for all. We can have profitable family farms and robust rural communities and cities. But we’ll never get there if the corporations, the HMOs and the rich don’t pay their fair share.
Family farmers are less likely to have health insurance coverage than most Minnesotans and when they can get it, they pay a lot more for it. Why? Because HMOs care a hell of a lot more about profits than they do about people. They are holding a half of a billion dollars in excess reserves that we need to claw back into the state treasury. It’s our money. The money is there; let’s use it for care!
I come from a part of the state that remembers the robber barons of the 19th and 20th centuries, the banks, railroads, grain traders and oil companies who picked the winners and losers and amassed huge personal fortunes on the backs of Minnesotans.
I come from a part of the state that remembers farmers and laborers uniting to take down the barons and build this state into a place that invests in people and communities. I graduated from a school in a small, rural town with an education that was the same high quality as any kid got in the wealthiest district in the state. That school district now operates on a four-day-a-week schedule.
I come from a part of the state that knows that that when we invest in our workers, invest in our schools, invest in our health programs, invest in our transportation systems and invest in our environment, that everyone benefits and that everyone should pay their fair share.
I come from a part of the state that knows that way forward is to organize, to stand together to take back our power from the big banks, the HMOs, and the food & agribusiness giants that are pillaging our state and tell the richest 2% to pay their share to avoid deep cuts that kill jobs and will hurt all of us.
But now, the corporations and the rich pay a smaller part of their income in taxes than you and I do and they want to pay even less! They want to defund everything that makes this a great state, and leave us begging for low paying, no benefit, dead-end jobs! Enough is enough! I’m here with you today to collect on a bill that’s way past due! Big banks, big retailers, big agribiz, it’s time to pay up!
Terry VanDerPol is a western Minnesota cattle farmer and member of Land Stewardship Project. This speech was given in the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda on May 21, 2011 at the Rally for A Fair Economy.