Just over a year ago, Trump came to Wisconsin in the midst of his trade wars and declared that farmers were “over the hump,” but that wasn’t true then and it certainly isn’t true now.
Since he became president, Trump’s disastrous policies have contributed to the more than 2,000 dairy farms that have had to close their barn doors forever, with a record 818 disappearing for good last year alone. The people who live on these farms are more than a number or a statistic.
They’re the farmers who sold their milk across our state and country. They’re the sons and daughters who inherited the farm from their parents just like their parents inherited it from their parents before them. They are the community members who powered local economies as they shopped at local markets, bought tools and products from nearby vendors, and ate at the Main Street diners. They’re the Wisconsinites who make our state so great.
All of these people whom I represent — Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike — suffered and saw their livelihoods destroyed because of Trump. And it wasn’t just dairy farmers — crop producers in our state saw the markets they took decades to develop evaporate in just a short few months.
Those who fell by the wayside were the small and medium-sized farms that couldn’t weather the storms caused by Trump. Between his trade wars and agriculture policy they were all fighting a losing battle, while the largest agricultural producers were able to stay profitable and even buy up so many of these farms.
You see, the so called “bailouts” touted by Trump and his Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue — who also came to Wisconsin to say that small and medium-sized farms simply needed to get bigger or go out of business — didn’t do enough to make up for the losses they helped exacerbate. The small amount of money family farms got was a drop in the bucket compared to what was being lost on a daily basis, and they simply don’t have the same cash reserves that the big companies do. All the while, the Trump administration was more focused on helping large agricultural producers while working people on smaller farms got left behind, much like they did in the tax bill this president passed at the end of 2017.
The eventual deal that was struck with China doesn’t bring back the markets we lost or fix the large structural problems Trump promised he’d fix. What’s more, it seems Trump struck the deal merely for a photo-op as it doesn’t provide nearly the amount of purchasing Trump promised from China, it’s unenforceable, and China is already backing out of the commitment.
Like the rest of the country, we are reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump’s failed response to this crisis. For those of us who help feed the country it’s been particularly painful. We’re having to dump milk, burn crops, and euthanize livestock because once again we don’t have markets to sell our products.
It seems that this was unavoidable — that things didn’t have to get worse, but Trump ignored a problem staring him in the face merely because he thought it wouldn’t be good for him politically to acknowledge it.
But what about the human cost? Almost everyone now knows someone who’s been infected, someone who has died or seen a friend lose a loved one, and more families are suffering than ever.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that if Trump wins this election what’s left of Wisconsin’s agriculture industry is going to be in tatters.