The American farm is dying out. While it is something that is drawn in pictures and spoken of in a folkloric way, the reality is that massive factory farms are wiping out smaller farmers and forcing them to sell lands that many have worked on for decades or centuries to mega corporate farms.
One of the hardest hit sectors is the dairy industry, where small farms are being destroyed almost systematically as major grocery chains are attempting to force down the price of milk to production cost or below levels. This forces farmers to work excessively hard for almost no profit, and sometime outright debt. This has caused farmer suicides, misery, and constant problems that are only getting worse, especially in dairy-heavy states such as Wisconsin, which is also a major political swing state.
Recently, Trump’s agricultural secretary declared that the problem with small farms is they are not “big enough,” and that the “big get bigger but the small go out”. However, he was then quick to blame “the Chinese” for doing this.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue warned Tuesday during a trip to Wisconsin that family dairy farms may not survive as the factory farm model moves to overtake them.
Perdue told reporters after attending the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., that dairy farmers in the state are increasingly struggling to make a living wage if they are milking fewer than 100 cows, The Associated Press reported.
“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Perdue told reporters, according to the AP. “I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”
When asked about the trade war, Perdue told the crowd at a town hall at the expo Tuesday that the Chinese are “cheaters.”
“They toyed us into being more dependent on their markets than them on us. That’s what the problem has been,” he said, according to the AP. “They can’t expect to come into our country freely and fairly without opening up their markets.” (source)
Cheap food is a good thing. In most parts of the world, food is very expensive and can consume up to 25% of a family’s monthly budget. Having extra money to spend is not a bad thing. However, it can have adverse consequnces, such as how in the US the availability of such cheap food is a gateway to indulgence and obesity.
Cheap food should not come at the expense of the average farmer, yet this has become a common way of life because of external pressures being foisted upon them from major corporations.
Politically speaking, while Trump’s Secretary may be correct, he should also be careful, because many of these same small farmers voted for Trump on the promise that he might be able to help them, as well as their families.
As noted before, Trump cannot afford to lose “swing states” because he, from the electoral college numbers, barely won.
As noted before, the likelihood is that he will win. However, if he continues to take from the perspective of the common people, a callous approach to the real sufferings of many very hard working men and women who are watching their lives and family histories fall apart, then their rebellion may come in the form of their votes.
He can blame the Chinese all he wants to, but nobody can say that it was not Trump’s policies that brought about the current state with China, and for geopolitical reasons. China needs US food more than she does not as we have discussed, and so it was not China who is cutting off supplies so much as it is the US.
Selling this argument to people who live in a city may work, but it is harder when one knows basic facts and then tries to tell this to a person watching his family farm be foreclosed upon and sold to major corporations.