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Perspective: The Death Of Small Family Farms

James Baltz

"In America, the big get bigger and the small go out," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Perdue made these comments at the World Dairy Expo in Madison Wisconsin, which touts itself as America's Dairyland and has lost 551 dairy farms in 2019 and a total of 1,654 dairy farms lost since January of 2017. More than one farm a day for the last three years. It has become so serious that Wisconsin’s legislature's finance committee voted unanimously last month to spend an additional $200,000 to help struggling farmers deal with depression and mental health problems.

Five years of plunging farm prices, increasing bankruptcies, and climbing suicide rates were not discussed by Perdue. His message to farmers was basically, stop whining.

This from a person who during his time in agribusiness, between 1996 and 2004, received $278,000 in USDA federal farm subsidies.

“What I heard today is that there is no place for me,” said one fifth-generation farmer.

I think of my own father who worked nights and weekends as a security guard in an empty factory so he could continue to share-crop a 180 acre farm by day.

I think of the other small farmers today who see their dreams, or family farms generations old lost to the growing conglomerate agribusiness operations. 

It is not just businesses we are losing but a way of life.

I’m Dan Kenney and this is my perspective.

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