Guest Opinion: Get big or get out, a redux

Published 6:22 am Friday, October 25, 2019

By Brian Depew

Asked about the plight of dairy farmers in Wisconsin, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “[The] big get bigger and small go out and that’s kind of what we’ve seen here…”

The Center for Rural Affairs was founded on a different belief. We believe consolidation in agriculture is not inevitable. Instead, we understand it is the direct result of policy decisions we have made together as a nation. We can choose to make different decisions. Consider:

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We can choose to place a cap on crop insurance subsidies. Right now, if one operation farmed the entire state of Iowa, the federal government would subsidize their crop insurance on every single acre.

We can choose to enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act and put hardworking livestock producers on a level playing field in the market dominated by large multinational meatpackers.

Together we have made good choices to shape the future of agriculture, proving it can be done. Consider:

Today, over 70 million acres of working farmland are protected by the Conservation Stewardship Program because we chose to fight for this landmark program in the 2008 farm bill.

The 2018 farm bill includes a record $100 million in funding for beginning farmer training and local food system support because we chose to fight for these programs.

We are not resigned to a future of inevitable market consolidation. We understand the choices we make in Washington set the path for agriculture in the countryside.

Brian Depew is executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs.