Recently, the Janesville Gazette‘s editorialist tried to defend remarks from Trump’s secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, about the demise of family farmers. See Our Views: Ag secretary’s reality check wasn’t callous. In that defense, one finds that the Gazette‘s editorialist neither understands the meaning of simple English words nor basic economics.
The secretary of agriculture said while in Wisconsin that he sees no future for family farmers:
“Now what we see, obviously, is economies of scale having happened in America — big get bigger and small go out. … It’s very difficult on economies of scale with the capital needs and all the environmental regulations and everything else today to survive milking 40, 50, 60 or even 100 cows.”
The Gazette complains that “Jim Goodman, board president of the National Family Farm Coalition, vented… ‘Small farmers were, again, surprised by Agriculture Secretary Perdue’s callousness when he casually told them that small farms would probably not survive.’ ”
What does the editorialist think callousness means? Anyone with a grasp of basic English vocabulary knows that to be callous is to be emotionally hardened; unfeeling (as in a callous indifference to the suffering of others). That’s exactly what Perdue was in his remarks. One might be right about something (although Perdue is not) and still be callous. Wisconsin family dairies are in crisis; that’s heartbreaking – or at least it should be.
To help, I’d suggest the American Heritage Dictionary. It’s available for purchase at Amazon. In the unlikely event that the editorialist stumbles into a bookstore, I’ve included a photo of a dictionary so he’ll know what to find.
Does the Gazette understand basic economics? The editorial wrongly blames market forces for Wisconsin’s dairy crisis (“nothing can stop the market forces reshaping Wisconsin’s agricultural landscape”).
It’s not market forces that have so reduced the number of family farms in America’s Dairyland – it’s Walker and Trump Administration government interference into the marketplace. Bruce Thompson ably explains – through good data and metrics – How Walker, Trump Hurt Dairy Industry:
Given declining demand for milk, one might expect that the last thing state government would decide to do is encourage more milk production. Yet, on March 13, 2012, Governor Scott Walker announced a new program called Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30×20. His accompanying news release explained the name came from the intention to “achieve an annual milk production of 30 billion pounds by 2020.”
This suggests that Walker and his administration were influenced less by farmers than by “the state’s growing processing industry.” Unfortunately, the demand for milk did not grow along with increased production.
A second blow to dairy farmers came more recently as the result of President Trump’s tariff war against America’s trading partners. This war was triggered by the Trump administration’s series of tariffs on imports of certain products from America’s trading partners. Several countries responded by imposing retaliatory tariffs on selected American products, including agricultural.
In its grasp of English and its economics, the Gazette‘s editorial is an embarrassment.