Scholten, NMPF, DNC respond to Perdue skepticism about small dairy farms
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Tuesday in Wisconsin that he doesn’t know if small dairy farms can survive, sparking responses from J.D. Scholten, the Democratic candidate running against Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, the National Milk Producers Federation and the Democratic National Committee.
At the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., Perdue said, “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or a guaranteed probability of survival,” the Associated Press reported.
“Now what we see, obviously, is economies of scale having happened in America — big get bigger and small go out. … 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,” Perdue added, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Scholten, who lost narrowly to King in 2018, said in a news release, “Dairy farmers across the country have been struggling. For Secretary Perdue to say that there’s ‘no guarantee’ that small dairy farms will survive is essentially giving the middle finger to family farmers. In reality, it’s policy that dictates their survival. If we continue allowing agriculture monopolies to dictate the markets, we will continue down this dangerous path of consolidation. If we enforce our antitrust laws, we will give farmers a chance.”
National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern said in a statement to The Hagstrom Report, “Consolidation has been a fact of farming – and thus dairy farming – for generations. Every year, the average number of cows per farm rises and the definition of ‘small’ goes up. The National Milk Producers Federation represents and advocates for farms of all sizes, and we are proud of the successes we’ve had in aiding our producers, small and large.
“All farms have been harmed by the low prices we’ve endured the last several years, regardless of size. Since smaller producers have struggled most to keep their operations afloat, it was important to provide a more effective safety net for them in the farm bill. Payments under the new Dairy Margin Coverage Program are weighted toward covering the first 200 cows of a dairy herd, giving extra assistance to smaller producers. So far this year, more than $300 million in aid has been distributed,” he said.
“A thriving dairy industry is crucial to rural communities across the U.S. and, while consolidation is a fact of economic life, a diverse dairy industry is one of our nation’s agricultural strengths,” Mulhern added. “We will continue to fight for the interests of all dairy producers as our industry evolves.”
Today the Democratic National Committee said in a statement, “Yesterday, Trump’s agriculture secretary continued to disrespect America’s farmers and told them that there is no place for small farms in our country. This is only the latest example of Trump’s broken promises that have outraged farmers across the country.”
The DNC also cited stories in The Washington Post and on the CNN website that said Trump faces criticism in farm country.
Former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and 80 of his colleagues last week introduced the Protect Farmers from the SEC Act.