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Trump’s Ag Secretary Calls Small Farmers Doomed Un-American Socialists

Earl Butz is back! (Did he ever really leave?) U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Wisoncsin dairy farmers Tuesday to get big or get out… in exactly those words:

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters following an appearance at the World Dairy Expo in Madison that it’s getting harder for farmers to get by on milking smaller herds.

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Perdue said. “I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability” [Todd Richmond, “Ag Secretary: No Guarantee Small Dairy Farms Will Survive,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2019.10.01].

Secretary Perdue practices what he preaches... [photo from @SecretarySonny, 2018.01.24].
Secretary Perdue practices what he preaches… [photo from @SecretarySonny, 2018.01.24].
Guaranteed income? I thought we did have that, what with crop insurance and Trump’s “Sorry about my tariffs/please vote for me againfarm welfare checks.

But wow—how demoralizing it must be for small farmers to throw their political support behind a Manhattan billionaire who’s never put his hands in the dirt, only to have him turn around and dismiss your fight to survive as un-American simpering for some sort of socialism.

In America, the big get bigger and the small go out—the Trump Administration here inescapably declares that there are too many farmers, and that some of you (most of you, really, for the Butzian-Perduian-capitalist logic doesn’t end) who’ve been working the cows and the land for generations are obsolete. You are chaff. You are stubble to be plowed into the dirt of your bigger, more worthy competitors.

How’s that for a real Trumpist campaign slogan?


  1. mike from iowa 2019-10-03 07:28

    With mow rawn drumpf in charge of trade and tariffs, there is no guarantee any farm/farmers will survive.

  2. Donald Pay 2019-10-03 08:06

    Perdue is getting huge blowback from local farmers for his arrogant appearance at the World Dairy Expo in my hometown. He couldn’t have give a worse presentation from the point of view of maintaining Republican fealty of the rural and farm vote here. Purdue’s presentation was a gift to Democrats in dairy country. If Wisconsin, even rural Wisconsin, is now not winnable for Trump. Thanks, Sonny.

    The World Dairy Expo brings lots of big dairy honchos to Wisconsin, but it’s the small to medium dairies that have always been the heart and soul of the dairy industry. Yes, dairies are getting bigger because of technology. The corporate food industry is seeking cheap milk for pizza cheese for cheap frozen pizza and similar frozen products, and that results in pressures to get big. Milking has gone from bucket and stool to nearly completely automated in a century, but it’s the small to medium dairies here that produce milk for artisan cheeses that win awards all over the world.

  3. mike from iowa 2019-10-03 09:02

    And once again Donald Pay tells it like it is in the real world. The world totally foreign to wingnuts.

  4. o 2019-10-03 10:00

    BUT, will Democrats learn their campaign lesson? Will Democrats go to the grain-belt/rust-belt states to forward the message of TRULY having solutions for the problems caused by the GOP? Can Democrats craft a message that breaks through the Guns, God, and Pro-Live mantra of the GOP faithful?

    The GOP won the Electoral College by “being there” for the Democrat-abandoned-assumed-stronghold of the rust-belt; can Democrats now do the same to the GOP in the mid-west? Do GOP voters feel as spurned as Democrat voters?

  5. Porter Lansing 2019-10-03 11:49

    O is correct, as usual. Another way Trump won the electoral college was to cheat. His team (Wikileaks, Russia, and Cambridge Analytica) stole private information from Facebook and used it to psychologically profile 80,000 voters in WS, PA, and MI to find people who didn’t trust women, didn’t believe a woman should be President, and were vulnerable to mental manipulation. Those 80,000 were then bombarded day and night with slanderous and untrue Facebook messages about Hillary until those 80,000 voted the way their manipulators told them to vote. Those 80,000 abused, molded, and mentally operated on voters were enough to steal the electoral college. ~ Trump is doing it again, with Biden but this time he got caught. (He did it in China again today!)

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-03 12:29

    Donald, thanks for the local view! I’m surprised that the USDA chief would make such harsh, unpalatable comments in the heart of small-dairy America. It’s as if he didn’t really do his homework on the area and didn’t even try to tune his message to the audience.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-03 12:31

    True, O: as long as farmers feel Dems won’t treat them any better, they can still rationalize voting with their red-capped ids for an urban blowhard who affirms their own Archie-Bunker impulses. (But someone, please, tell me how a Manhattan billionaire becomes the symbol of rural defiance.)

    What can we Dems offer? Can we get a Presidential candidate who will back refocusing our national agriculture policy on small farms and sustainable local production-consumption cycles?

  8. Donald Pay 2019-10-03 13:32

    Republicans have issues that they use to hold the rural vote in Wisconsin. Some of it is social issues. Some is racism. Mostly it’s been what is known here as “the politics of resentment.” As in South Dakota, the larger cities are booming, while the rural area recedes. That creates some understandable resentment. Republicans have capitalized on every little perceived slight to rural areas they could manufacture, and Democrats did ignore rural issues. Gerrymandering after the 2010 census left Democrats with a reduced presence in rural areas, which has been part of the problem.

    Dane County, a Democratic stronghold, however, is the leading county in terms of agricultural production, due mostly to small and medium-sized farms. The rural areas in Dane County are only slightly less Democratic than the urban fringe precincts. The rural counties around Dane County are leaning more and more Democratic over the 18 years I’ve been here.

    Democrats, of course, show up in Dane County small towns and rural areas. Republicans seem to have the problem of not showing up in Dane County, and ceding the county to Democrats. You do have to show up if you expect to compete for votes anywhere. That’s been the lesson learned since 2016.

  9. Dave 2019-10-03 13:33

    In another generation or two, Smithfield Foods will own nearly every farm in South Dakota, I fear. I’m not exactly sure how CAFOs work, but I think they’re based on a farmer entering into a contract with a major food corporation and essentially becoming a cog in the large corporate food machine that’s been encouraged to prosper in our country. It’s a go big or go broke environment that our farmers are in right now.

  10. mike from iowa 2019-10-03 14:42

    Farmers can’t win….. Landlord filled a bag of silage a week or two ago on a cool wet Saturday. They sealed the bag and Sunday the temp went to 85 plus degrees and the entire top of the bag split wide open the entire 150 feet length.

    Never heard of this before and we filled bags for numerous years without the bag splitting. The plastic was sent to the company for testing and came back okay.

    So the landlord hired a tractor with a silage blade and they repacked the silage alongside where the bag was and covered it with plastic.

  11. Debbo 2019-10-03 20:26

    I think Democrats need to talk to rural people about markets for their products that are more specialized outside of the mass markets. I’m thinking about the specialty cheeses Don mentioned. There’s also meats that are hormone-, GMO-, antibiotic-free and grass fed. There are lots of vegetable and fruit markets, plus grain markets for smaller amounts to grind into specialty flours, etc.

    Democrats can talk about making their crops eligible for the EU market. COOL labeling, GMO labeling, creating online marketplaces. Also reducing expenses through Medicare for All with private insurance options, state provided online stores, plans to reduce overhead, seller co-ops, etc.

    Democrats need to help them meet the high demand for specialty foods and create new demand for other specialty foods, maybe refocus SDSU on creating new products for state farmers to provide.

    Infrastructure to cope with new, wetter weather conditions. Crops to do the same. Inventor meetups with experts to help creative people develop products.

    I think Democrats have a great deal to offer farmers. They need to lay it out and stick to it. Focus On Message.

  12. Clyde 2019-10-03 22:06

    What is needed IMHO is a farm program that is specifically designed NOT to turn rural America into nothing but ghost towns and abandoned farmsteads. As I’ve said in the past, it wasn’t long ago experts were telling you you had to farm a 1000 acres to be viable. Now they are saying 10,000. a generation ago 160 was enough. Anyone ought to be able to see the logical progression. How long before the giant agribusiness oligarch’s own it all. When they do THEY will set the price and it will be very profitable for them. We can’t subsidize small but lets look at what big gets. I’m saying that big gets all the subsidy’s!

    I watched a video not long ago of a planter running in Ohio. Looked to be 48 rows pulled by a 4 wheel drive tractor. No markers so it was GPS positioned and therefore could run 24 hours a day. Not only that but it had a shuttlecock on the back like they use to refuel airplanes in flight. IT WAS BEING RESUPPLIED BY A SHUTTLE THAT CAME UP BEHIND AND PLUGGED IN ON THE GO!! The technology is there that will do in everybody in short order. In a year or two the four wheel drive tractor pulling that planter won’t have a cab for an operator.

    There is no reason we can’t keep small operator’s out here producing artisan cheese or whatever but it will take convincing the public that people like Sonny Perdue are wrong. As o mentioned….is a Democratic party that takes their marching orders from the same people that control the Republican party up to the job of change??? Are they willing to convince rural voter’s that they will improve the outcome and are they willing to actually do so.

  13. jerry 2019-10-03 23:15

    Clyde, how are you going to convince rural voters that Democrats care about them or their way of life? They don’t want to listen to problem solving because their minds are already made up. The one sure thing operators can agree upon is that Republicans will screw them and will keep screwing them and they seem to like the screwing. If you haven’t hung around where the conversations go over coffee, try it sometime and you will come away from the table with the same idea I just laid out. While you’re there, just for the hell of it, ask them about Medicaid Expansion. The paraphrasing of the Einstein famous quote is, insanity voting the same way over and over and expecting expecting a different result.

  14. Debbo 2019-10-04 00:33

    “This trade thing is what’s brought on by the president and it’s really frustrating because he took away all of our markets,” Bob Kuylen, a farmer from North Dakota who grows spring wheat and sunflowers, told Yahoo Finance. “We live in an area where we’re kind of in the middle of nowhere. It costs us a lot of money — over $1 a bushel to get our grain to markets.”

    “All these countries went to different countries to get their grain,” Kuylen said. “How are we going to get the relations back with them to buy our grain again and be our customers?”

    “Our prices are probably as low as I’ve seen them in a long time,” he told Yahoo Finance. “We were losing just about $70 an acre just by putting our crop in [the ground] this spring.”

  15. Adam 2019-10-04 02:03

    I suspected, from the beginning, that Trump’s trade war was supported by Big Ag as a vehicle to simply get bigger by bankrupting yet another wave of the smaller farmers.

    And, heck, Trump did the heavy lifting on the whole ploy (for Big Ag) so that they wouldn’t have to.

    Today, I suspect I was right.

  16. Clyde 2019-10-04 02:17

    Jerry, If you came out and actually pushed a farm program that would work for the majority of farmers who are not huge I think you could get a lot of them on board. Agree that a large number are hopeless cases. I sought signatures for prop W and thought getting them would be easy where farmers hung out. The obvious leader of a group refused to sign and his followers followed suit with the statement that they sent good people to Pierre and we needed to just leave them alone and let them do their job. They could not be convinced that over site was desirable. Hopeless.

    I think my idea of guaranteeing a good price for a limited amount of production while letting anyone that was going to produce more actually get their money from the “Free” market. The scheme that we have now actually forces farmers to produce the maximum to get a small guarantee on all of it. It is a long way from the “Free” market they have been telling us they are heading for for over 40 years now. In actuality it’s the same old game. Constantly cheaper commodity’s.

  17. John 2019-10-04 07:41

    So the secretary of corporate ag comes to Minnesota, then Wisconsin alleging farmers are whiners, think small, and refers to them as un-American socialists while his boss provides the biggest bailouts in history to counter his thoughtless tariffs.

    Who knew the politics of resentment, of distant social interests – would outstrip voting in ones economic interest.

  18. jerry 2019-10-04 08:57

    Clyde, sorry you got shot down with the W, but that’s exactly what I’m talking about. All of this seemed to have started with FDR’s programs saving the farms. Here in South Dakota, the last governor who was behind agriculture was at that time as well, Tom Berry. That’s how far you have to go back.

    We followed a program that is still, to this day, being implemented. We showed the world how to farm and we showed the world how to make small operations viable. Then we decided that was no longer any good and we shut it down to the corrupted mess we have now.

    Here is the road map that already exists. Think of the days when we had soil banks, worked pretty good didn’t they. Anyway, here is the way we need to go.

    “Vibrant rural areas and quality agricultural products
    World food production needs to double by 2050 to cater for population growth and evolving food habits. It faces the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, soil and water quality, and the demands of the global marketplace.

    EU farm policy has changed considerably in recent decades to help farmers face these challenges and respond to peoples’ changing attitudes and expectations. EU agricultural policy covers a wide range of areas, including food quality, traceability, trade and promotion of EU farm products. The EU financially supports its farmers and encourages sustainable and eco-friendly practices, while also investing in the development of rural areas.”

  19. Peter Carrels 2019-10-04 12:00

    There are a multitude of reasons why rural, eastern South Dakota has crept from Democrat to Republican. Understanding all of those reasons is complicated, and above my pay grade. But one factor must be acknowledged. Some of you may remember when the fertile James River valley, stretching from Yankton through Huron to Aberdeen and Brown County was reliably Democrat. This existed until the 90s or so. I organized landowners along the James River in the 70s, and visited many farmers in this region. It was the Democrats who had delivered better rural roadways and rural electricity. It was the Democrats who fought for rural communications in the earliest days. And it was Democrats who initiated efforts to develop rural water systems that are now indispensable to many farmers and small rural communities. Once objections to those services were overcome and those services were installed and functioning and part of the fabric of rural South Dakota the Democrats’ role and service was completed. Farms got bigger and protecting wealth became more of an issue. We all know which political party is more adroit at defending wealth. This, in part, explains, the political transformation in the James River valley and in much of eastern South Dakota. There are new rural issues arising, of course, including appropriate and regenerative land use and stewardship of water and soils. Neither party has shown strong leadership in addressing these matters.

  20. mike from iowa 2019-10-04 12:06

    Without smaller farms you will soon be without smaller towns and school districts. Mega farms spend money in big cities, not so much in rural America.

  21. Debbo 2019-10-04 13:09

    Minnesota is offering free Suicide Prevention Training for Farm Families across rural Minnesota. It’s based on a NAMI approved plan and appropriate for ages as young as 15. It lasts 1 hour.

    It helps them recognize when someone might be suicidal, talk to them and refer them to help.

    That’s one of the things SD could be doing.

  22. Clyde 2019-10-05 06:55

    The American voter needs to realize the value of rural America and what it’s losing by the farm programs that have been written for decades now. A major selling campaign could counter the “Free Trade at any cost” mantra that has been drummed into them for decades. Rural America would, of course, have to recognize the need. I can think of lots of reasons this country should want to save rural life. Small town’s and farms raise a different human compared to those raised in big city’s. I don’t think you could find a Trump in rural America.

    When I was in the service I came to the conclusion that the only people capable of really doing anything were farm kids and a few young city raised guys that were into hot rod’s. My personal experience with east coast big city folks was that all they were really good at was talk. Of course I was involved with mainly mechanical repair and operation of equipment but I’ve held that view ever since. Lots of talk! Little action of any value!

  23. Porter Lansing 2019-10-05 07:23

    Can’t find a Trump in rural America, huh? Exhibit one and one A – Lederman and Powers.
    Let rural America save itself. Rural America is why Trump was elected. Fix your own problems. You’ve created more than you’ve repaired, ever since Reagan!

  24. Clyde 2019-10-05 07:35

    Porter, I was only thinking small towns I’m afraid. Concede that I could be proven wrong. Rural America has been fed the same propaganda that has corrupted the rest of America. The fact that intelligence has left rural America says a lot about the damage already done.

  25. Porter Lansing 2019-10-05 07:41

    ‘Ya know, Clyde. Great minds think alike. What’s left when the best and brightest young people have moved away, for sixty years? A depleted gene pool of ignorance.

  26. Porter Lansing 2019-10-05 07:55

    -It’s the people who’ve not yet evolved who don’t believe in evolution.
    -It’s the white supremacists who don’t believe in white privilege.
    -It’s the people who live in the worst climates who don’t believe in climate change.
    -It’s the religions who don’t have any who deny women’s rights.
    Sense a pattern, here?

  27. mike from iowa 2019-10-05 12:11

    Moar bribes to pacify farmers from their worst enemy.

    The package may help President Donald Trump shore up support in Iowa and other Midwestern farm states, where recent polls have shown his approval ratings underwater.

    Corn-state lawmakers were quick to praise the deal.

    “President Trump has made clear that he is an ally of corn and soybean farmers as well as ethanol and biodiesel producers,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said in a statement. “He is fighting for the farmer. This announcement is great news for Iowa, the Midwest and the entire country.”

    Grassley is a persistent pest. If I don’t respond to his goofy newsletters, he sends me three of them on a given Saturday. Already got the same one twice today. I haven’t wasted my tome on him since I called him and Ivanna Kuturnutzov disgraces to iowa and they both needed to resign in disgrace.

  28. Debbo 2019-10-06 21:49

    Business Insider, which leans right, has some things to say about Economic Eunuch:

    •Economic data is pointing toward a recession, and no one should be surprised.
    •Yes, it’s late in our economic cycle, and that matters. But President Donald Trump’s policies are also very much to blame here.
    •Trump promised to buck economic thought and go full protectionist. Economists warned him this would damage the global economy, but he didn’t listen.
    •Feel free to walk by the White House and scream “I told you so!”

    Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

  29. Debbo 2019-10-06 22:35

    Economic Eunuch’s fumbling around with China is a pitiful mess:

    “Chinese officials are signaling they’re increasingly reluctant to agree to a broad trade deal pursued by President Donald Trump, ahead of negotiations this week that have raised hopes of a potential truce.”

    In addition, China is working on not needing US pork, a project they undertook due to swine disease and EE’s ineptitude.

    “In a farm deep in the southern region of China lives a very big pig that’s as heavy as a polar bear.

    “The 500 kilogram, or 1,102 pound, animal is part of a herd that’s being bred to become giant swine. At slaughter, some of the pigs can sell for more than 10,000 yuan ($1,399), over three times higher than the average monthly disposable income in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi province where Pang Cong, the farm’s owner, lives.”

    Both of these articles come from Bloomberg.

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