U.S. Ag secretary visits Dairy Expo, says dairy farms will survive but need to adapt

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue paid a visit to the World Dairy Expo at the Alliant Energy Center, where he answered questions from concerned farmers and dairy officials. The Wisconsin dairy industry is facing decreasing prices, rising suicide rates among farmers and a trade war with China.

Many in the audience at the town hall meeting touched on issues like declining milk prices and surviving in an industry that is competing with so-called nondairy milks. When asked if Wisconsin dairy farms will survive, Perdue said yes but that farms may have to get bigger to do so.

“It’s very difficult in the economy of scale, capital needs and all the environmental regulations and everything else today to survive milking 40, 50, 60 or even 100 cows. What we’ve seen is the number of dairy farmers go down but the dairy cows haven’t reduced that much, those cows have not gone to slaughter they’ve gone to someone else’s herd,” Perdue said.

Perdue called the 2018 farm bill, signed in December, a positive for the industry. He said it provides more protections than previous legislation, including improvements to risk management and an increase in dairy prices.

“We need to look forward not backward. There’s no doubt there’s been economic stress in the dairy industry but we believe that better days are ahead,” Perdue said.

When asked about trade issues, Perdue called the Chinese “cheaters.” He said China “toyed us into being more dependent on their markets than them on us.”

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