Go Agroecological or Go Extinct

| 10/23/2019 10:50:00 AM


As if we were living out a rerun of a 1970s Heartland horror movie, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has echoed the ominous, damning words of Earl Butz, the Agriculture Secretary under Republican President Richard Nixon: "Get big or get out," Butz infamously said, a bitter command as thousands upon thousands of family farms began collapsing under the consolidated onslaught of multinational corporations, vertical integration, and bank debt.

Butz's words and policies undermined support for family farms, and encouraged the metastatic growth of factory-farms and a stupendous increase in subsidized production of staples for export, in turn a glorious benefit for the fast-food industry and makers of processed foodstuffs. All of this contributed to making America the world's most obese nation, a nation also distressed with staggering rates of diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other diet-related diseases.

The trajectory of corporate control, consolidation, chemicalization, and colonization has continued unhindered by public concern.

Now cometh Sonny Perdue, Republican President Donald Trump's USDA Secretary: “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Perdue proclaimed in September, thereby adding a rhetorical kick in the ass to the painful plague of bankruptcies and farmer suicides currently afflicting rural America.

This latest slam came just weeks after Perdue mocked farmers during a Minnesota Farmfest  listening session. A former salesman of ag chemicals, Perdue uttered a cruel joke about the very people he is supposed to help: “What do you call two farmers in a basement? A whine cellar.”

Truth be told, Butz, Perdue and their ilk have given farmers a lot to complain about. According to the National Farmers Union, in just the last five years, more than 67,000 US farms went out of business. This cancerous decline of family farms and rural communities is not inevitable. It’s the result of the “get big” policies that have ruled agriculture for the past 50 years.

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