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‘Have off-farm jobs’: Trump’s Agriculture Secretary offers tone-deaf advice to struggling farmers

11/14/2019 11:36 am ET Dara Brewton
Ag Sec's solution for struggling farmers: get a job.

Source: Wikimedia

Sonny Perdue, Trump’s Department of Agriculture Secretary, says it is a good time to be a farmer in the United States. But he has a little bit of advice for those who are struggling, get an “off-farm” job.

On his podcast The Sonnyside of the Street, Perdue recently said,

“I don’t think there could have been a better time to be in agriculture than today, I really mean that.”

It is a statement that may have many scratching their heads, especially those in the agriculture industry. Prices for things like corn, soybeans, wine, and dairy products have all taken a hit. Farmers have struggled since Trump’s trade wars with China, requiring billions in subsidies from the government just to keep them afloat.

Purdue chatted with Max Armstrong, a veteran farm broadcaster, whom he told,

“I’m bullish on agriculture—with the diversity, with the opportunity of e-commerce and direct sales. People are still fascinated with the way food is produced!”

Perdue may be excited about the opportunities in agriculture now, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was telling Wisconsin farmers, “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out.” In fact, farm bankruptcies are up from last year, and banks are giving out less money for farm loans.

In addition to the damage Perdue’s boss is doing to the industry, farmers also have Mother Nature to battle.  The midwest was hit with record-breaking rains in the spring months delaying the planting of crops. Then unseasonal blizzards took their toll on the fall harvest.

Towards the end of the episode, Armstrong asked Purdue, “What do you say to that younger operator who entered this industry maybe five, six, seven years ago, and doggone it, things have gotten a lot tougher?”

Perdue’s response:

“What we see happening is what farmers have done over the years—many of them have to have off-farm jobs in order to survive during this period of time.”

Interesting. There’s no “better time to be in agriculture than today” but farmers should get “off-farm jobs.”


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