Two weeks later, Perdue controversy continues

By: - October 15, 2019 8:57 am
Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, speaks at a town hall

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Hailey R. Staker)

Two weeks after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited Wisconsin and made comments about small, family farms and their chance of survival at the World Dairy Expo, the controversy continues.

Late last week, as Wisconsin Examiner reported here, The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF) president, Jim Holte put out a statement saying that “Agriculture Must Stand United.” Holte declared that media had published “misleading and inaccurate news stories.” He went on to ask the unnamed reporters responsible for those reports to “retract or revise” their stories.

He did not cite any media directly, however when The Associated Press and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, two major Wisconsin news outlets that covered the event, were contacted both stood by their stories

The saga continued Monday when Holte, a grain farmer from Elk Mound, wrote a column which included a transcript provided by an agricultural reporter and highlighted the quote from AP, as the one he was focused on.

“After several days of watching the negative, misleading news story circulate, it became clear the many people were confused about what Secretary Perdue really meant by his comments during the press session,” Farm Bureau communications director Sarah Hetke said in explaining why the group put forward the statement and column. “WFBF received requests from members to say something and it became obvious Farm Bureau needed to help clear up the confusion and remind our farmers and agriculturists the power of being united.”

Perdue’s comments as reported by AP were:  “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.”

Holte has not identified precisely why he found the AP quote to be misleading, other than that he felt the entire context was not included. “This demonstrated that the pieces that were pulled out of context were never intended to say what the reporter spun them to say,” wrote Holte in his Oct. 14 column, which followed his Oct. 10 statement.

His Monday column includes a link to audio, which does contain the quotes that were cited in the article by AP. While written transcripts may vary because it is not clear where all the sentences begin and end, the audio demonstrates that the AP quote above was said by Perdue.  

Decide for yourself on the context. Holte’s column is here and the audio transcript is here from Brownfield Ag News for America.  

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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.