Donald Trump is Wrong on Dairy Policies

By: Anthony Pahnke, vice president of Family Farm Defenders

Published on July 6th, 2018, Capital Times (Madison, WI)

President Donald Trump is wrong on dairy because he supports free trade. At first, this may appear incorrect, especially with the trade disputes over tariffs with China and the European Union. Despite such views, his position on agriculture — dairy in particular — is entirely different, taking a page right out of the free-trading Democrats’ economic playbook of the 1990s.

Consider Trump’s tweet from early June that targeted Canada’s dairy industry. According to Trump, Canada places a 270 percent tariff on dairy imports, which Trump says is “unfair to our farmers!” What Trump is actually targeting is Canada’s supply-management system, a series of policies that stabilize the prices that farmers receive through setting production quotas and limiting supply. Comparing milk prices in the two countries shows a steady raise over the years for Canadian farmers, while in the United States, we find a veritable roller-coaster of sharp increases and decreases that vary every three years or so. As the current U.S. dairy crisis is now unfolding, characterized by low milk prices, a wave of bankruptcies, and in some cases farmer suicides, some have expressed interest in learning about the not-so-free market system in Canada. In fact, the Wisconsin Farmers Union hosted Canadian farmers earlier this year, who came to the state to discuss supply management.

Yet instead of praising a system that benefits rural communities, and that U.S. dairy farmers have expressed interest in understanding, Trump bashes it. Also, earlier this year Trump proposed that the U.S. could possibly re-enter the intercontinental free trade agreement, the Tran-Pacific Partnership, which he withdrew the U.S. from early in his presidency. The reason for this change would be to help U.S. exports find markets in foreign countries. In criticizing the Canadian system and potentially rejoining the TPP, Trump is voicing support for economic globalization and free markets.

Where else have we seen such support for free trade in agriculture? The answer is in the Clinton administration. After becoming president in 1992, one of Bill Clinton’s first moves was to sign into law the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA seeks to create a complete free trade zone among Canada, Mexico, and the United States. While certain areas in agriculture are exempt — for instance, Canadian dairy — the overall thrust is not to keep people farming, but to promote exports for the advantage of agribusiness conglomerates. Similarly, in 1994, the U.S. Senate ratified and Bill Clinton signed the treaty that created the World Trade Organization. In the WTO, the goal is the same as NAFTA, but with the difference that free trade is global and not merely regional.

What rural communities in Wisconsin and throughout the United States have painfully learned, especially since the 1990s, is that free trade and growing export markets do not keep people in the countryside. Since 1992, according to the USDA, the number of licensed dairy herds nationally has fallen from over 131,000, to 40,000. That 60 percent decline has not resulted in diminished supply — consumers have retained regular access to milk and other dairy products as farms have increased their production and size. The average number of cows per operation has doubled during this time, going from approximately 50 in the early 1990s to over 100 currently. Factory farms of thousands of cows are increasingly dotting the Wisconsin landscape alongside small farmers auctioning their land, equipment and animals because they cannot pay their bills.

Is promoting free trade through lambasting the Canadians and potentially rejoining the TPP the remedy to the current dairy crisis? The answer is no. Yet, instead of acknowledging this point that is apparent after analyzing the results of the Democrats’ free trade initiatives from the 1990s, Trump chooses to follow their policies and embrace their economic vision for rural America.


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Real Solutions to the Dairy Crisis – Binational Media Conference Call Held Tues. May 9th, 2018

Family Farm Defenders and the National Family Farm Coalition, along with many allies, hosted a binational media conference call on Tues. May 9th tackling real solutions to the dairy crisis.

Over two dozen journalists participated in the call, and the conversation has already generated several news articles.

Featured panelists on the call included:

  • Ralph Dietrich, Canadian dairy farmer, board member of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario
  • Patty Lovera, policy director, Food and Water Watch
  • Jim Goodman, organic dairy farmer, president of the National Family Farm Coalitiom
  • Ed Maltby, executive director, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association
  • Moderated by Sarah Lloyd, dairy farmer, special projects coordinator with Wisconsin Farmers Union

The conference call was also recorded, so if you would like to listen:
​Dial-in for USA:             1-719-457-0820
Dial-in for Canada:        1-647-0148
Replay Passcode:          290862892#​

Here are also some links to news stories prompted by the call:

National Press

Local Press

As well as background materials that were shared with the call participants:

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Family Farmers, Fishers and Food Workers Urge Eaters Everywhere to Contact Their Elected Officials and Demand Food Sovereignty NOW to Commemorate April 17th – the International Day of Peasant Struggle

For immediate release – April 16, 2018Contact:

John Peck (608.345.3918),

Anthony Pahnke (612.916.9148)

Lisa Griffith (773.319.5838)

On April 17th each year, members of La Via Campesina – the largest umbrella organization in the world for family farmers, fisher and herder folk, hunters/gatherers/foresters, and indigenous peoples –  commemorate the massacre of landless peasants in 1996 in the Amazonian state of Pará, Brazil. Nineteen members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) were attacked and killed while hundreds more peasants were injured by Brazilian military police during their protest for comprehensive agrarian reform. This struggle for justice continues in Brazil today.  Events planned for April 17th worldwide may be viewed online ( 2GUu8Y0April17th).

For many years Family Farm Defenders, Food & Water Watch, National Family Farm Coalition and other La Via Campesina allies have staged protests outside the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Board of Trade on April 17th to protest lack of federal anti-trust enforcement and global commodity price rigging that hurts farmers and consumers alike.

Instead of a protest this year, U.S. food sovereignty advocates are urging citizens to take the spirit of April 17th directly to the politicians as Congress enters debate on the 2018 Farm Bill and the White House reconsiders forced trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Many farmers, particularly dairy farmers, are finding themselves in worse financial shape now than during the height of the1980s crisis, leading to a wave of bankruptcies and tragic suicides.  Unregulated fake “organic” imports and taxpayer subsidized expansion of “organic” factory farms are even hurting the small farms that pioneered the organic food movement in the U.S.  Unprecedented agribusiness concentration is destroying access to non-GM and locally adapted seed varieties.

Adding insult to injury, the Farm Bill draft just released by the House Agriculture Committee supports strict work requirements for SNAP recipients, allows the EPA to approve pesticides without analyzing potential harm to endangered species, reduces support for many conservation programs, and slashes funding for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501).

This April 17th please take a stand in favor of food sovereignty by contacting your elected officials in Congress – you can find their contact information by calling the Congressional Switchboard at #202-224-3121  or by visiting  and

Among the key issues to discuss with your representative and senators:

Demand #1:  Create a farmer-controlled supply management program for commodity grains and for dairy, in particular, which is extremely perishable and costly to store. Canada already has a supply management system which ensures farmers a parity (cost of production) price while keeping food prices more affordable which the U.S. could certainly replicate.

Demand #2:  Reinstate COOL – Country of Origin Labeling – for all meat and seafood, as well as dairy products. Citizens in more than 60 other countries have the right to know where their food comes from, and U.S. consumers who wish to support U.S. farmers should have access to the same basic information, since  we currently have such a rule for clothing, electronics, and other household products. Having COOL in place would simplify the second part of this ask – imposing tariffs on milk protein concentrate (MPC) entering the US. Our dairy farmers can produce enough milk to meet our domestic requirements, and we should not be allowing dairy processors to import such unsafe alternatives to make the likes of infant formula and cheese.

Demand #3:  Place a moratorium on all new and expanding CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), which not only destroy clean air and water, but also abuse animals and exploit workers, while generating surplus milk and meat that drive down market prices and ultimately hurt smaller, more responsible farmers. A CAFO moratorium would  facilitate the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) anti-trust enforcement against the food giants, big box retailers, and other agribusiness corporations that are guilty of price-rigging and manipulating markets for their own profit to the detriment of everyone else in our food/farm system.

Demand #4:  Require the National Organic Standards Board to employ the Leopold Center’s fluorescence spectroscopy test – using light to measure chlorophyll – to identify milk from grass-fed cows accurately and inexpensively. This step would expose those operations that are violating the organic pasture rule. (Note to everyone:  check out the Cornucopia Institute’s organic dairy score card to see just how well each store brand stacks up at dairysurvey/index.html.)

Demand #5:  Support the rights of workers to organize for living wages and better working conditions across our entire food/farm system.  In particular, immigrant workers are now under attack even though they are critical to the success of U.S. agriculture and have become a vibrant sector of many rural communities.  Food sovereignty is impossible without dignity and respect for ALL those who contribute to sustaining our society.


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Family Farm Defenders Annual Meeting & John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize Award Dinner! Sat. April 7th, 2018 – Baraboo, WI

Best Western Baraboo Inn 725 W. Pine St.

9:00 am – 12:00 Noon  FFD Annual Meeting – open to the public

12:00 noon – 1:00 pm  local food lunch (suggested $10 donation)

1:00 – 4:00 pm  Community Food Sovereignty Forum – with participatory panels focusing on immigrant farmworker solidarity, water issues, and the ongoing dairy farm crisis

Invited speakers include: Becky Schigiel, exec. director, Worker Justice Wisconsin; Erica Sweitzer-Beckman, farmworker attorney, Legal Action Wisconsin, Dr. Diego Calderon; UW Veterinary School (and former immigrant dairy farmworker); Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch; Jen Riemer, farmer activist with Green County Defending Our Farmland; Pete Hardin, editor of the Milkweed; Jim Goodman, organic dairy farmer; and Rob Anderson, board member of Westby Cooperative.

Baraboo Arts Center – 323 Water St.

4:30 pm reception with cash bar

5:30 pm award dinner featuring local grassfed organic foods, plus vegetarian options

6:00 pm  Welcome by Joel Greeno, FFD President; John Kinsman Tribute by Ben Burkett, MS Association of Co-ops, and Keynote by George Naylor, IA farmer, and former president of the National Family Farm   Coalition (NFFC) on Parity Price, Democracy, and Food Sovereignty

6:30 pm  John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize,  honoring the legacy of FFD founder, John Kinsman (1926-2014) This year’s winners:  Tommy & Samantha Enright of Black Rabbit Farm near Amherst, WI, and Craig & Lauren Kreutzer of Meadowlark Farm near Wonewoc, WI!

Dinner tickets are $30 per person and can be ordered in advance (send check to FFD: P.O. Box 1772, Madison, WI 53701) or online via the Razoo donation link on this website!

If you plan to attend and pay at the door we ask that you RSVP in advance so we know how many to expect!  Please let us know at:

Family Farm Defenders is also seeking additional sponsors for this year’s John Kinsman Prize!  All sponsors will receive an honorable mention in the evening program and any sponsorship over $100 will receive two complimentary tickets to the award dinner!

All gifts to FFD are tax deductible.

Please spread the word and share the Facebook event:

Hope to see you in Baraboo Sat. April 7th!

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Retailers Want to Own Farmers – CAFOs Fill the Bill

By: Jim Goodman, organic dairy/beef farmer near Wonewoc, WI, board member of Family Farm Defenders and new president of the National Family Farm Coalition

As dairy farmers have seen many times in the past, a glut of milk has flooded the market and dropped farm pay prices to the point that some farmers will be forced out of business. Generally it is the smaller farmers that go first. For them, credit, to try and ride out the storm, is harder to come by.

Aurora’s “organic” dairy factory farm

CAFO’s (concentrated animal feeding operation) seem to be the preferred method of dairy production in the US. Processors and retailers like the model, sort of a one shop stop to get as much milk as you need. Consistent volume of production pretty much year round makes sourcing easy an no pesky farmer co-ops complaining about low prices need be involved.

I personally never thought the CAFO model would show up in the organic dairy business, at least in my lifetime. Sadly I was very wrong. Large dairy farms, mostly in the Western US, in recent years have ramped up production to the point that there is now a glut of organic milk on the market, and our prices, like those of overproducing conventional farmers, have fallen well below the cost of production. We are all slowly going broke and going out of business.

In the organic world it is generally not the small farmer who is producing too much milk. Following organic production requirements keeping cows on pasture in season and ensuring minimum of 30% dry matter intake from pasture is not a burden for farms like ours—it’s just part of a farming system that works, that’s why its also part of USDA organic standards.

Whether CAFO farms are actually organic is the real question. USDA inspectors insist these farms, like Aurora in Colorado, are meeting the standards despite investigations by the Washington Post and Cornucopia Institute showing only a few hundred cows at most, out of a herd of 15,000 on pasture at any given time.

Having raised cattle on pasture all my life, I am always at a loss to understand how 15,000 cows could be moved to and from pasture between milkings. Cows move slowly, 15,000 would require hundreds of acres of grass per day—that is a long walk. Impossible.

But having the blessing of UDSA, CAFO’s continue to grow to the point that “About half of the organic milk sold in the U.S. is coming from very large factory farms that have no intention of living up to organic principles.” according to Mark Kastel, co-director of the nonprofit Cornucopia Institute.

This milk is part of a captive supply chain between the CAFO organic dairies and the big retailers, Wal-Mart, Costco, etc. Works very well for both parties, lots of milk produced cheaper than real organic milk (as the CAFO’s are allowed to ignore at least some of the organic standards) so the big retailers can undercut milk prices paid to small organic farms, and the CAFO has a guaranteed market.

This is not a new phenomenon, conventional pork, poultry and now dairy farmers as well, have over the years, seen a similar process take over and decimate their supply chains. Once the big players control the system it is all but impossible for a small farmer, cheese maker or meat processor to get into the system—that’s why its called a captive supply.

To hell with the free market, farmers are encouraged to get a contract, it’s safe, you have a market—perhaps not a good price, but at least a market. Things used to be different, buyers were competing for milk, which was good for our price. I remember having three milk processors at our farm at the same time trying to get our milk. Those were the days.

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