Trump agriculture chief: No guarantee small farms can survive

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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday in Wisconsin that he’s unsure if small family dairy farms can survive as larger institutions continue to boom. 

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Perdue told reporters after appearing at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, according to The Associated Press. “I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”

{mosads}The secretary’s trip to Wisconsin comes amid a litany of struggles for Wisconsin dairy farmers, including dropping prices and uncertainty related to President Trump’s trade wars. The state has lost 551 dairy farms in 2019 and lost 638 in 2018 and 465 in 2017, according to the AP.

“What I heard today from the secretary of Agriculture is there’s no place for me,” Jerry Volenec, a fifth-generation Wisconsin dairy farmer with 330 cows, told the AP. “Can I get some support from my state and federal government? I feel like we’re a benefit to society.” 

Perdue said he believes the 2018 farm bill, which reauthorized funding for agriculture and conservation programs, will help ease the burden, but that small farms will continue to struggle to compete in a changing marketplace. 

“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,” he said. 

Farmers across the nation have been thrust into uncertainty as a result of Trump’s trade wars around the world, but particularly regarding the ongoing dispute with China. Washington and Beijing have slapped billions of dollars of tit-for-tat tariffs on each other, with China targeting agricultural goods to try to undercut a key base of support for the president.

Perdue on Tuesday defended the White House’s strategy, calling the Chinese “cheaters.” 

“They toyed us into being more dependent on their markets than them on us. That’s what the problem has been,” he said. “They can’t expect to come into our country freely and fairly without opening up their markets.”

Tags Donald Trump Sonny Perdue
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