US Ag Secretary setting the record straight about “get big or get out” claim

US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is setting the record straight against a claim by a mainstream media outlet saying he believes dairy farmers need to “get big or get out.”

Speaking on Agri-Talk, Perdue says his comments were made during a press conference held after a town hall meeting with farmers at World Dairy Expo last week.

One of those reporters that already had their story written, he phrased the question in a way to get the quote, the answer, he wanted. What I was expressing during that period of time is that every farmer knows there’s been consolidation and whereby my dad put two kids through kids through college on 318 acres in the middle of Georgia, that’s difficult to do these days. We know that, and the economy of scale with the capital investment there, that was the point that was being made. It was not a get big or get out kind of mandate, it was just the reality that it is tough to make in the dairy business milking 40 or 50 cows these days.”

The comments that Perdue says were manipulated, followed a question regarding the loss of small dairy farms.

The 2018 farm bill will stem the flow of that. Now, what we see obviously, is economy of scale having happen in America, big get bigger and small go out, and that’s kind of what we’ve seen here. It’s very difficult in the economy of scale, with the capital needs, and all the environmental recommendations, and everything else today, to survive milking 40, 50, 60, or even 100 cows.”

The reporter followed up asking if dairy farmers need to “get big or get out.”

Reporter: “But, are they going to survive as they have in the past as small operations, or are they going to have to get big or get out?” Perdue: “That remains to be seen, everyone will have to make their own decisions economically whether they can survive. I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability of survival. That depends on each and every dairy farmer. Farmers are pretty good at managing and managing through tough times. I think those that survived through the 14 farm bill, should do well through the 18 farm bill.”

On Agri-Talk, Perdue went on to say this is an attempt by mainstream media to claim the Trump administration has no empathy for farmers and their economic struggles.

That’s absolutely wrong, if you look the context of my statement that day, you will understand the empathy that I have for making it today, especially in the dairy business, over the last five years and the former farm bill has been tough, it’s been really tough. But the good news is, under this administration, this farm bill, dairymen I think for the first time in a few years have a real optimism going forward, what can happen with their risk management. So, these smaller herds have a better shot now than they have in the last five years.”

Agri-Talk can be heard weekdays at 1pm on KGFX.


Perdue’s full comments on Agri-Talk:


Perdue’s full comments with reporter during World Dairy Expo press conference: