Kenan Senior Fellow responds to US Secretary of Agriculture

Commentary: Small farms valuable assets to society, sustainability

Charles D Thompson Jr
Charles D. Thompson, Jr

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue went to Wisconsin’s dairy land recently and issued a heartless statement regarding struggling American farms.

“The big get bigger and the small go out,” he proclaimed, leaving family farmers and their advocates across the nation aghast. How can the man tasked with protecting farmers say something so crass? If nothing else, Perdue gave us an honest glimpse into just how biased toward big farms he and others like him really are.

He should have also added that the USDA has long favored the big farms at the expense of the small, and their decades of policies since the Great Depression prove it. The big got bigger because our government nurtured them. And while the U.S. has feigned support for small farms, we have rarely helped them. The striking fact is that so many small farms have survived anyway, a testament to their value to society and their sustainability.

When I was young, I had so many relatives on farms that I believed I too could be a farmer. But by the 1980s, I had witnessed the demise of every farm in our family. Though I still wanted to be a farmer, I realized to do so meant a fight for justice. I never heard farmers “whine,” as Perdue joked elsewhere, nor have I ever heard a small farmer ask for a free ride. Certainly none of my relatives ever got one.

Read the full story here.

Also read Thompson’s Good Question:  How are the U.S. immigration system, the decline of rural America, and food justice connected?