OPINION My husband’s grandfather came here in the early 1900s from Poland, working in the mines until he saved enough money to buy land. He had farmed in the old country and wanted to do the same in America.
Like the other farmers around he had a few cows, chickens, pigs, eggs and produce that he sold in town. His son, my husband’s father, took over the farm in the 1950s and built up the dairy herd because it was the best way to make a living on a farm. He worked hard and milk prices were good enough for him to raise a family and meet all their needs. He saved his money, bought his machinery with cash and never went into debt. He passed his way of doing things on to his son, my husband, who took over the farm in the 1980s.
Unfortunately in 1983 an arsonist completely destroyed our barn but we didn’t lose any milking cows. At that point the hard work of this family was already being undermined by the federal government. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz said in the 1970s to farmers, “Get big or get out.” That animosity toward family-scale farms has continued to undermine farmers through the pricing of milk.
The message of the current Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to farmers is, “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out.” That’s not just a prediction; it’s a plan and a policy. Milk pricing by the federal government is designed to benefit factory farms and the producers, and to drive small family operations out of business. Farms are apparently not one of the small businesses that every administration says they want to support.
Should the public care? Only if they are concerned about getting real milk instead of reconstituted milk, if they are concerned about diseases and viruses that are rampant in factory farms, and if they understand that our food security is at risk when we depend on imports and big business.
If we’re going to maintain our family farms and price milk correctly to them, we must support the Federal Milk Marketing Act – the Specter-Casey bill. We urge everyone to contact U.S. Senators and members of Congress to urge them to reintroduce this bill while we still have some family farms.
Annette Kuzma, Kuzma Dairy Farm