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September 18, 2020

9/10/2020 8:50:00 AM
Farmers need change

Farmers have always had a complicated relationship with the government, which both subsidizes and regulates us. This keeps us on our toes and requires us to carefully weigh the policy priorities and records of each candidate, regardless of his/her party affiliation. I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats over the years and I think all farmers need to be prepared to do the same.
As small businesses owners, we are often attracted to the pro-business platform of Republicans, which, through lower taxes and less regulation ought to give us more opportunities for investment and growth. But when that line of thinking is taken to extremes it can be detrimental to our farms and our rural communities. That was the case in the "get-big-or- get-out" era of Earl Butz, and it is again the case today, as Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue made clear during his visit to Wisconsin last October.
This fall, farmers need to reject Trump, Perdue, and their approach to agriculture. The hope that Trump's business instincts would improve conditions for farmers has been painfully proven false. Compared to four years ago, farmers are less able to attract and retain the employees who want to work on our farms, we have less predictable access to markets for our products, and we are adrift in a confusing and irrational approach to farm subsidies.
This has created almost unbearable conditions for many of us, particularly for small and mid-sized farms. While visiting Dairy Expo in Madison last October, Perdue was asked about the fact that Wisconsin was losing two family dairy farms a day. He responded by saying that, "in America, the big get bigger and the small get out." That vision and the policies behind it don't work for Wisconsin, where small farms are the backbone of our rural economy.
Because we are a key demographic in swing states like Wisconsin, Trump is trying to conceal the damage done to farmers with a blizzard of subsidies. In 2020, Trump has doled out over $32 billion in farm subsidies, a record-breaking figure and a number larger than even the 2008 auto bailout. Like many farmers, I have cashed those checks and have been grateful for the help. But like all farmers, I understand that these subsidies are unsustainable and are not an adequate substitute for the conditions we need to be competitive today and tomorrow, including a coherent immigration policy, stable market access and rational regulation. None of these will happen with four more years of Trump.
I can't help but feel that we're at a turning point for the viability of small and mid-sized farms in Wisconsin. Trump has had four years to make progress on the issues important to us and he has only made conditions worse. It's time to give someone else a chance.
Andy Hatch

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