American farmers did not take kindly to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s comment last week making light of small dairy farms going out of business, according to Newsweek.
Perdue spoke at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, and farmers — some who traveled great distances to hear him speak — were “looking for a message of hope that the White House administration had their backs,” in the midst of ongoing angst from President Donald Trump’s trade war.
But that’s not what they got.
"Now what we see, obviously, is economies of scale having happened in America—big get bigger and small go out,” he said. "It's very difficult on economies of scale with the capital needs and all the environmental regulations and everything else today to survive milking 40, 50, 60 or even 100 cows, and that's what we've seen.”
The Wisconsin Farmers Union followed with an article capturing the feeling of many farmers, titled, "Perdue rips open rural America's wounds."
Perdue’s remarks were like "a kick in the guts,” it said.
Union president Darin Von Ruden told Newsweek: "The secretary had the opportunity there to say that we should be doing more for the smaller family farms and small farms in general. He chose to say that if economics forces them out, then economics forces them out. That's telling me and other farmers that it just doesn't look like that there is room for us in this business."
The union “wants an end to mega-mergers, criticizes the amount of subsidies the biggest producers get, and is among a growing chorus pushing for a supply management system enacted by Congress that can curb overproduction, which hurts prices.”
Wisconsin lost almost two dairy farms a day last year, with the U.S. losing almost 3,000 dairy farms in total, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"Those dairy farmers are really being cheated by the system. They are not bad managers. Anybody who has been in dairy for the last 15 or 20 years is a good producer and trying to do their very best but the system is set up against them. We are trying to stay in business with the largest corporations with their taxpayer subsidies,” Von Ruden said.