“The two great aims of industrialism – replace people with technology and concentration of wealth into the hands of a small plutocracy – seem too close to fulfillment.” – Wendell Berry, agrarian philosopher.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue mocked an assemblage of Minnesota farmers at a listening session Aug. 12 by telling a joke that ended by calling farmers “whiners” – the same American farmers upheld as “great patriots” by the president. That came at a time of unprecedented farm bankruptcies. They are spiking as a result of a number of issues, not the least of which is a trade war that’s hampering U.S. markets while mountains of grain rot and a new season of harvest awaits.
Perdue’s comments Oct. 1 to reporters and industry people at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, were an exclamation point to the degree he’s out of touch with the current agricultural situation.
“In America the big get bigger and the small go out,” Perdue said.
I spoke with four dairy farmers ranging in age from 35 to 54. All agreed to be quoted and identified. All agreed the system is broken and tilted in favor of large farms. All agreed the current administration has not lived up to its campaign promise to rural America and its farmers.
James Juedes is a third-generation dairyman from Ringle, Wisconsin. He had this to say in response to Perdue’s statements in Madison.
“It is very troubling to me as a small family farmer to hear Sonny Perdue basically throw us under the bus,” Juedes said. “This country was built on family farms that were, and could still be, the backbone of rural America. To say that a supply-growth management system will not be supported by this administration is appalling to me. It is a death knell to what we are doing to save our way of life now and for future generations.”
He is a lifelong Farm Bureau member.
“I’m strongly considering changing my allegiance to the Democratic Party after these statements by Mr. Perdue,” he said. “This administration has not followed up on its campaign promise to farmers.”
Perdue’s casual mention that environmental regulations are hampering small farmers is “completely false,” said Paul Daigle of the Marathon County Conservation Planning and Zoning Department.
“Regulations don’t kick in until you’re at the 500-cow level,” Daigle said.
Les Holtz is a third-generation dairyman from Rudolph, Wisconsin, who milks 100 organic mixed-breed cows.
Considering “In America the big get bigger and the small go out,” Holtz had a comment.
“Unfortunately he’s right, but does that make it right?” Holtz said.