Big Dairy: The War on American Farmers

In July of last year, I wrote about a worldwide war on farmers, an attack that was initiated by elites in Washington, the EU and beyond. As I write this, the war is still being waged. If anything, it has become more intense. Its victims? Tens of thousands of small farmers. Its beneficiaries? Huge corporations raking in billions of dollars each year.

If we are to “save” the environment, the phasing out of farmers, we’re constantly told, usually by elitist journalists who know next to nothing about farming, is necessary. However, as this piece shows, we are being sold a pernicious lie. The phasing out of farmers doesn’t help the environment. In truth, it simply helps the rich get richer, and the poorer citizens become even poorer. 

Big Brother, Big Government, Big Tech, Big Pharma —- now it’s time to add Big Dairy to this Big List. 

On January 31, Food & Water Watch, a D.C.-based NGO dedicated to shedding light on instances of corporate and government malfeasance, released an extensive report analyzing the United States’ dairy farming industry. The report, 24 pages in length, reveals the many ways in which corporate consolidations have effectively destroyed small family farms across the country. Not only are these consolidations destroying family-run enterprises, they are also fueling climate destruction. 

The report, aptly titled “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: Dirty Dairy Racket,” takes aim at federal policies that “continue to push and celebrate increasing production and expanding exports.” That one-dimensional focus helps agribusinesses increase their profits. At the same time, however, it leaves the country’s 36,000 dairy farmers with merciless markets and pathetically low milk prices. States are actively working against the interests of American dairy farmers, by pouring excessive sums of money into corporate schemes and greenlighting megadairy operations. 

In an extensive interview with The Defender,  Rebecca Wolf, food policy analyst for Food & Water Watch, suggested that the United States’ dairy industry crisis is directly linked to corporate-directed policymaking. “Family-scale dairies are collapsing at an alarming rate,” she lamented. Meanwhile, “those that manage to hang on face rising costs, negative returns, and mounting debt, while consumers are sold an illusion of pastoral, sustainable milk products.”

Today, according to The Defender, only 30% of U.S. milk is produced at family farms, while more than 80% of milk sales are controlled by a trio of major corporations: California Dairies, Inc, DFA, and Land O’ Lakes.

Interestingly, but not in the least bit surprisingly, according to Food & Water Watch, the relentless consolidation of the dairy production industry has enormous climate implications. In the space of 30 years, between 1990 and 2020, the shift from smaller, family-run farms to factory farms has caused annual methane emissions to more than double. 

Factory farms, notes the report, now dominate the American dairy industry. This domination is expediting the disintegration of family-scale dairies. In 1970, there were 648,000 dairy farmers in the U.S.; by 2006, this number was down to 75,000, a drop of 88%.

The demise of smaller-scale dairy farms can be traced back to the 1996 Farm Bill, signed into effect by Bill Clinton.  Bill's bill, which the authors of the report call “disastrous,” should be viewed as the exact point in time when the U.S. went from a country that respected family farming to one that instead chose to idolize factory farming. Between 1997 and 2017, according to the report, the country lost 64% of its family-run commercial dairies.

Viktor Orban, a man who, almost by default, divides opinions, famously argued, rather persuasively, that the biggest threat to Europe’s future is posed by the continent's “political, economic, and intellectual elites,” all of whom seem hellbent “on transforming Europe against the clear will of the European people.”

The same logic applies to the U.S. The United States is an oligarchy; this has been the case for years, if not decades. The country is now controlled by a handful of unbelievably powerful elites, the kind of people so detached from everyday reality that we, the people, are but an abstract concept, an afterthought, termites to be exterminated — if not literally, then psychologically, spiritually and economically.

The collapse of family-scale dairy farms must be viewed through a much broader lens. The gap between the elites and the everyday citizens is widening. The middle class is being hollowed out. And the pit labeled “peasantry” is becoming increasingly full. This is not a glitch in the system; it’s a feature.  The dairy farmers' story is one that should resonate with readers across the country. Their story is, in many ways, a reflection of modern-day America.

 

Image: Title: dairy farmer
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