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Wisconsin Farmers Union opposes CU conversion bill
MADISON, Wis. (5/31/11)--The president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union has written an op-ed article opposing a measure in a state legislative committee that would make it easier to convert a credit union directly to a bank. The column, posted on madison.com Friday, is by Darin Von Ruden. His organization works to enhance the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities and all citizens. The measure passed the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee on May 12 as a budget amendment, and the Wisconsin Credit Union League has called on Gov. Scott Walker to veto it. "There were no public hearings on this proposal, nor were any credit unions or credit union members given an opportunity to comment on the proposal," said Von Ruden's article. "This is a major law change that would undermine the stability of credit unions." He noted that many of the 220 credit unions in Wisconsin are in rural areas and farming communities, which are "often underserved by investor-owned banks." "Credit unions are an important part of a diverse and competitive financial industry in rural Wisconsin. We should not be making it easier for investor-owned banks to gobble up locally owned credit unions," said Von Ruden. Current state law contains safeguards to ensure that members know that a vote on conversion is taking place, and that they have the information to cast an informed vote, he said. The new provision requires only a simple majority of those present at any given meeting to vote in favor of conversion. "It would allow for a very rapid conversion from a credit union to a bank, without allowing time for members of the credit union to understand the implications…or even know that the conversion is taking place," Von Ruden wrote. "Credit unions have always been an excellent source of loans, financial education and general support for Wisconsin's farmers and rural residents," he said, adding that the Wisconsin Farmers Union "calls on members of the legislature to safeguard the future of the state's credit unions by removing the credit union conversion language from the omnibus budget package. Creating a new method to dissemble Wisconsin's credit unions is unnecessary and unwise."
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