Last night Mark Newmann noted here that Biden's plan for rural America was a good start. "The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is necessary," he said; "its benefits are expected, but they are insufficient for resuscitating a thriving democracy in our country. I am reminded of the quote attributed to Justice Louis Brandeis, 'We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.' When our government provides us with things like 21st Century infrastructure that we most certainly need and does not appear to care about protecting us from the unfairness of an agricultural market dominated by monopolies, we cannot feel appreciative or participant in that government. Concentrated wealth and monopolies return everything for bigger profits on their bottom line to investors. Families that farm and all rural life get crushed between the monopoly suppliers for their production and the monopoly processors of their production..."
Below is a stand-alone guest post he was working on for us at the time. Please take a look at his ideas and consider contributing to his campaign on this ActBlue page which raises money for progressives running for Congress in districts that Trump won in 2020.
Rural Revitalization for Western Wisconsin
-by Mark Neumann
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue put his finger directly on the problem when he stated that the future of farming is to get bigger or get out. He was quoted as saying at his stop-over for the World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI, in October, 2019, "In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don't think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability." Perdue: No small-farm guarantees. In simple terms his theory was Get Bigger or Get Out. This theory is exactly the problem for rural America and exactly the problem for rural western Wisconsin. Just whose America is he talking about? This is not our America. This is not the America of the generations of farmers who made America. This is corporation America talking. This is exactly the problem when our politicians and elected officials speak for monopolies and corporations and not for we the people.
Farmers are so much more than food producers. Family farmers create faith communities, support schools for their children, are proud of their local acute access health facilities, and care deeply for their neighbors. That is my America. It is not the America that Sonny Perdue represented. How dare he. How dare all the politician water carriers for corporation America.
We know we are on the wrong track in rural Wisconsin when we lose family farms year after year to bankruptcy. There were 39 district court chapter 12 filings of western WI farms in 2020. Family farms are sold out to corporation agri-business, and the life of rural communities gets hollowed out. The mega-corporations are looking at their bottom line and the profits that are handed over to investors who have no life in Wisconsin. Family farmers look at their relationships within their communities. They care for the vitality of their land and the cleanliness of their water. They care for the value of farming life that they dream to hand off to a next generation because it is a good and wholesome life that they received from their predecessors.
The problem is not hard to understand. It stares us in the face. Corporation agri-business has expanded wider and wider and deeper and deeper into rural America since the deregulation policies of the 1980s that have allowed monopolies to prevail. There was a false belief that trickle-down economics would be good for everyone. This is false and now we see the results that come home to roost. What trickles down is a tighter and tighter squeeze to extract more and to leave nothing. Social value does not get tabulated on the balance sheets of corporation agri-business. Without intervention the final outcome will be a lifeless gray desert of factory farms spread out between nuggets of urban population. People working on the factory farms will be simply counted as units of production, expendable and just cogs in a machine. The farmer’s life will be gone.
It does not have to be this way. We all need respect. There is nothing more important to anyone than their dignity. This is the solution. We are Americans with our tradition of representative democracy. We can elect our representatives who will create governance that protects and promotes our dignity. We need our government to break up monopolies like happened in the days of Senator Robert LaFollette and President Teddy Roosevelt. We need a Department of Agriculture that has the backs of farmers like that of Henry Wallace and President Theodore Roosevelt during the depression and the days of the dust bowl. We need a government that does the work for we the people.
Some might say, “That was a different age. It is not today.” I say, “We can make today our age. It is time.”
It is not fair that family farmers must hope for scraps from the table while agri-business sits belly up to that table as a guest of honor when our nation’s farm bill is crafted every five years. It is not fair when monopoly seed producers (Monsanto) protect their market dominance through patent protections that make it possible for them to sell their products on a cornered market limited only by the threat of bankruptcy to their buyers instead of a fair competitive market amongst seed producers. It is not fair when family farmers are impeded from repairing their own equipment that they own because the manufacturers corner that market as well. Family farms need supply side management for fair prices for their products, and this is the fairness that they can expect from their representative government. Farm families need fair health care services. They, like all Americans, are being crushed by profit oriented private insurance providers, pharmaceutical and medical device producers and hospital system monopolies. Rural Americans need Medicare for All legislation to be implemented and not just talked about.
Our government can make the farmer’s market fair. We as an American people have done it before. We can believe in our sense of fairness that runs deep in our souls, and we can elect leaders in government who will bust monopolies and level the playing field to give everyone a chance to live free.
Rural western Wisconsin is far more than a place to grow and produce food. It is a place where people live, communities are built and families thrive. This should be the priority for the work of our elected representatives in government. Their life needs to be protected from the extractive strategies of monopolies that have no care for the preservation of that life.