By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Rachel Schroeder operates a 500-acre, 85-cow dairy farm with her dad in Jefferson County. Farming — particularly family farming — by its nature is a tight margin business. It had been really tight for the past several years.
That suddenly changed in 2021, Schroeder said, when the Jefferson County corn and soybean farm turned a “profit.” It was a dubious profit, she said.
“The only reason we were ‘profitable’ is because of all the government subsidies. That bothers me and my dad completely because we want to be independent of the government,” the Wisconsin farmer said Tuesday during a GOP-led press call on National Agriculture Day. “We felt that the government was forcing us to be dependent on them.”
Welcome to Joe Biden’s America, Republicans say.
The press call, which included U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua), state Rep. Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc), and three Wisconsin farmers, broke down the damage President Joe Biden and his administration have done to the American family farm in just 14 months.
“It’s a wrecking ball that’s being taken to our economy and to our way of life at this point,” Tiffany said.
A big part of the damage, the congressman added, is the result of soaring inflation not seen in 40 years and record energy prices. The climbing prices are tied to the unprecedented level of federal spending, including those ag subsidies as part of trillions of dollars in COVID relief. The heavy hand of rapidly expanding government regulation and extreme environmental policies also are hurting the ag industry.
Tiffany noted Biden’s Department of Agriculture’s stringent COVID mitigation policies that threatened meat processors. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service mandated employees at meat and poultry processing plants wear masks during inspection. Failure to do so would result in FSIS ending inspections, putting the processors at risk of losing business or even closing.
Lindsey Fox, co-owner of Nolechek’s Meats in Thorp, Wis., told Empower Wisconsin last year that FSIS rejected the processor’s appeal. Nolechek’s policy is mask optional for its employees. Without an inspection, Nolechek’s was locked out of the wholesale side of its business. USDA says it could do so because the meats are distributed across state lines.
“…If we produced any product with the mark of inspection going forward, it would be considered adulterated and a recall would be initiated,” Fox said.
“A meat-packing plant that has a proud history, meets all requirements to provide safe food for Americans, especially for us Wisconsinites, and the Department of Agriculture tries to come in and shut them down unnecessarily. That’s happened under the Biden administration,” Tiffany said.
And Biden’s extreme climate change agenda has stalled energy exploration, seized permit authority from local Bureau of Land Management offices, and shut down a critical pipeline. His policies hostile to domestic energy production are not only moving the United States away from energy independence, they’re having a disastrous impact on fuel and fertilizer prices.
Kurtz, an organic grain farmer, said diesel prices two years ago were at $1.68 a gallon. They shot up to $2.49 around this time in 2021.
“Today when I called the co-op to fill up my 550-gallon fuel barrel, it’s $4.05. That is going to affect every farmer this fall,” Kurtz said
Last March, fertilizer was going for about $770 a ton. On Tuesday, Kurtz said it was priced at $1,425 a ton.
That’s if famers can get their hands on enough fertilizer. Schroeder said supply shortages are pronounced. It’s all hitting hard the bottom line. While milk prices are up significantly, a growing piece of the rising price is wrapped up in milk hauling costs.
“Same thing on the grain side,” the farmer said. “Corn is over $6 (per bushel), which for the past couple of years it’s been around $4.”
“Everyone thinks farmers are getting rich but the price of Roundup, the price for fertilizer is doubling.”
While the number of family-owned dairy farms continues to decline at an alarming pace, agri-business is big business in America’s Dairyland, contributing about $105 billion annually to the state’s economy.
Tiffany, who grew up on a dairy farm in western Wisconsin, said Agriculture Day is every day in his family. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult for farmers to survive the kinds of extreme, big government policy decisions led by liberal leaders like Biden and Gov. Tony Evers.
“In 14 short months that Biden has been in office, we’re seeing things happen on the farm that I never thought I’d see before,” the congressman said.