Our View

Ag secretary’s comments uniformed, unfortunate
Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue finds himself fending off angry responses to some remarks he made last week in Wisconsin about the future of small farms.

And rightly so.

Perdue basically told a state that has been losing about 500 dairy operations a year over the last three years, that basically its small farmers should stop whining and quietly accept that they will be driven from the industry in favor or large, agricultural conglomerates.

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” said Perdue. “I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”

The secretary added that in his view the industry was leaving smaller producers behind.

“It’s very difficult on an economy of scale with the capital needs and all the environmental regulations and everything else today to survive milking 40, 50, or 60, or even 100 cows,” Perdue said.

Perdue made the remarks to reporters at the World Dairy Expo in Madison.

Small farmers were, again, surprised by Agriculture Secretary Perdue’s callousness when he casually told them that small farms would probably not survive,” Jim Goodman, board president of the National Family Farm Coalition, told Common Dreams. “Five years of plunging farm prices, increasing bankruptcies, and climbing suicide rates were not discussed by Perdue. His message to them was basically, stop whining, your demise is inevitable.”

While farming is certainly a business, and a big one at that, where small farming operations are concerned, there’s more at stake than just earnings. When we talk about small farms, we are talking about families, communities and entire ways of life. The small family farm holds a special place in our nation’s history. To callously write it’s demise off as the inevitable march of business is the height of arrogance and ignorance.

There was a time in this country when we valued our small farmers. They do good things for our communities and the nation as a whole. Even the suggestion that they might want to think about throwing in the towel to make way for bigger producers is offensive and antithetical to our nation’s traditions and values.

— Miles City Star