Saturday, December 22, 2018

More on the demise of the small dairy farm

Jim Goodman, an organic dairy farmer in Wonewoc, Wisconsin (population 816) published this op-ed/guest piece in the Washington Post yesterday, "Dairy Farming is Dying.  After 40 years, I'm done."  The headline sums up well what he has to say, but here's one of the most compelling excerpts:
Unlike many dairy farmers, I didn’t retire bankrupt. But for my wife and me, having to sell our herd was a sign — of the economic death not just of rural America but also of a way of life. It is nothing short of heartbreaking to walk through our barn and know that those stalls will remain empty. Knowing that our losses reflect the greater damage inflicted on entire regions is worse.
Writing about the farm crisis of the 1980s, Goodman observed its knock-on effects:
Farmers felt the impact most directly, but there were few in rural communities who were untouched. All the businesses that depended on farm dollars watched as their incomes dried up and the tax base shrank. Farm foreclosures meant fewer families and fewer kids, so schools were forced to close . The Main Street cafes and coffee shops — where farmers talked prices, the weather and politics — shut down as well.
He also notes the link between the current farm crisis and the mental health crisis among farmers, writing:
This year, Wisconsin, where I live, had lost 382 dairy farms by August; last year, the number at the same point was 283. The despair is palpable; suicide is a fact of life, though many farm suicides are listed as accidents.
Earlier posts on this topic are here and here

As for the subsidies available to larger dairy farms in the just-signed Farm Bill, those he calls a "PR stunt."  What farmers want, he says, is a fair price for their product. 

Other topics addressed in this piece include going organic, agribusiness, and the collapse of the family farm. 

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