Small Farms are Here to Stay

USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue said Tuesday at the World Dairy Expo in Madison that he wasn’t holding out much hope for the survival of family dairy operations with fewer than 100 cows. “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 guaranteed profitability,” he said.

Our Alliance couldn’t disagree more. The push for bigger farms is a policy choice, not inevitable. The agriculture policy choice, and decisions still being made today, started back in the 1970’s with then USDA Secretary Earl Butz infamously told farmers to “plant fence row to fence row.” The movement to“get big or get out” during Butz’s era spiraled farmers into debt, ultimately leading to the 1980’s farm crisis when we lost millions of farms and farmers. 50 years later, USDA leadership seems to favor agribusiness and corporate farms at the expense of small and mid-sized family farms.

With rock bottom commodity prices for the fourth year in a row, extreme weather, a trade war and rising input costs, we are on the cusp another farm crisis. Kicking farmers when they are down doesn’t help. The fact is, Illinois farmers of all sizes matter and the leadership at the USDA should defend and protect all of them. The agency’s mission after all is to “help rural America thrive.”

At the Alliance, we care about farms and local businesses because they make our communities thrive. We’re proud to be among the many agriculture organizations and members of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to respond to Sec. Perdue’s comments and call for policy that supports rural economies. Read NSAC’s statement here.