Wisconsin farmers got a close-up look at just how much President Donald Trump has their backs when his secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, joined the festivities at this past week's World Dairy Expo.
Many of the state's family farmers took Trump at his word that he would change things for the better if they made him president. The first clue that this was a bunch of baloney was when he made Perdue, one of the south's most ethically-challenged governors, his ag secretary.
That farmers in Wisconsin and throughout the U.S. are hurting more than ever is a well-known fact. Not only have prices for milk and related products plummeted to the point that dairy farmers are losing money, but Trump's tariffs have dried up a huge portion of the wheat, corn and soybean markets.
As if this hasn't hurt enough, in waltzes the former Georgia governor — yes, the one who went to great lengths defending the state's flag that incorporated the Confederate stars and bars — to essentially proclaim that the traditional family farm is doomed.
During a news conference on the Expo grounds, the biggest gathering of dairy farmers and suppliers in the world, Perdue said, "In America, the big get bigger and the small go out."
And if that wasn't enough of a downer to those who had banked on a Trump administration to provide some help, Perdue added that in America, no small business should expect a guaranteed income or a profit.
Jerry Volenec, a fifth-generation Wisconsin family farmer, expressed his disappointment with the secretary.
"What I heard today from the secretary of agriculture is there's no place for me," he told reporters. "Can I get some support from my state and federal government? I feel like we're a benefit to society."
It's quite apparent that the answer is "no."
This was the same secretary of agriculture who only last month joked by asking what you call a basement full of farmers and answering, "a whine cellar."
But, this is the kind of respect that Trump's collection of misfits and cronies that now represent the administration has for the backbone of rural America. How many of those rural towns and villages, their businesses and their schools, will survive if family farmers disappear and are replaced with big corporate family farms and giant feeding operations called CAFOs?
Westby's Darin Von Ruden, the president of Wisconsin's Farmers Union, hit the nail on the head.
The notion that big is better and small is inefficient is exactly what's driving overproduction of milk and other farm products that, in turn, is pushing farm prices lower and lower. Those big corporate farms can run more efficiently, but what they're doing by overproducing is what's killing the little guy.
And then, in the end, what will we have?, Von Ruden asked — our food production controlled by big, corporate-run monopolies?
Sonny Perdue is a big business apologist who believes that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the "left" and the media. Once, when Georgia was in the midst of a severe drought, he called everyone together to pray for rain in front of the state Capitol. Word is that it was a cloudy day, but the sun came out when he was through and it didn't rain for two more weeks.
Too bad he had to come to town and rain on our farmers.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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