Dairy Farmers Concerned About Industry With Incoming Administration - Paycheck

Dairy Farmers Concerned About Industry With Incoming Administration

   As President Donald Trump leaves office this week and the Biden-Harris administration comes in, the future of agriculture is up in the air. Although farmers have ideas and predictions, it remains to be seen how the new administration will attack important agricultural issues over the next four years.

   “Farms will continue to grow in size and shrink in numbers,” said Dan Wegmueller of Monroe, Wisconsin. “This will only further alienate farmers from consumers – hence why veganism is the fastest growing lifestyle movement of all time.”

   Wegmueller milks about 60 Brown Swiss cows on his family’s dairy farm with his wife Ashley. He’s been watching American agriculture become dominated by a ‘bigger is better’ mantra, a model of highly-centralized production of cheap food that will only continue on in the coming years, he said.

   “To understand where the dairy industry is headed, look no further than the poultry or pork industries,” he said. “A handful of entities control the majority of production. In this contemporary feudal arrangement, independent farmers have once again been reduced to serfs - and farmer depression, suicide, and bankruptcy rates prove this.”
   Evansville, Wisconsin dairy farmer Aaron Hass doesn’t feel any more optimistic about the industry. He keeps a close eye on agriculture markets and believes the first year of the Biden administration will bring plenty of price volatility as a result of the passing of various stimulus packages. This aid will cause an artificial boost in prices and production. Those prices will eventually have to fall, he said.

   “The bottom will fall out when that goes away,” Hass said. “Post covid, the Biden administration will continue to drag prices to mediocre and the farm attrition will accelerate because we are back to bad Obama-era policies.”

   Hass, who milks 117 Holsteins south of Evansville with his family, is not impressed with or excited about Tom Vilsack being named as United States Secretary of Agriculture under the new administration. He believes this leadership will lead to more farms going out of business.

   “During the Obama administration, farm exodus accelerated on a rapid rate and prices at the farm gate suffered more and more until the end of the Obama administration,” he said. “His ag secretary for eight years – Tom Vilsack. Now the incoming ag secretary – Tom Vilsack. Nothing like going back to eight years of failed policy and horrible trade negotiations.”

   Hass said the grain markets may prove to be stronger this year though, perhaps a silver lining for some in agriculture. The derecho storm in Iowa late in 2020 and increased Chinese demand will help domestic grain markets.

   “But by the end of Biden-Harris’ term, grain prices will be mediocre because China and other nations will not continue to honor trade deals because of a lack of enforcement,” he said.

   Wegmueller also feels Tom Vilsack is not the answer to the American farmer’s ongoing struggle. He believes federal government will continue to subsidize consolidation and industrialization of food production, causing consumers to respond with an even stronger veganism movement.

   “Change will only happen at the grassroots level when farmers reject the trajectory of where their respective industry is headed, and instead reach laterally to connect directly with the consumer and surrounding communities, which is the defining role of agriculture in the first place,” Wegmueller said.

   Poplar Grove, Illinois dairy farmer Leslie Wundrow, who milks about 30 Brown Swiss cows with his family, summed up the future quite simply.

   “As the new administration comes in, we will still be here milking cows,” he said.

Mary Hookham

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