Who is a loser or a winner?

Image: Matthew Hintz for the New York Times

Really, it depends on what side of the fence you happen to be on. An article in the New York Times last Friday discussed the long and painful decline of Wisconsin’s dairy farms. While the current chaos of the US administration’s ham-handed efforts to manage the trade wars it has started has not helped the industry there, the trouble began before the current resident arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Like the EU in years past, Wisconsin’s previous governor Scott Walker thought that the key to resolving all issues was getting those production numbers up – more milk, more money. Trouble is, everyone did. Similarly, there was discussion of this time after EU quotas were lifted, when the right prices for milk would be paid and dairy farmers not going out of business. This did not occur. Overproduction led to low prices that battered European dairy farmers.

The overproduction sent milk prices tumbling. Adding to this is a continued decline in liquid milk consumption in the US. And, the much-heralded recent federal aid package for American dairy has resulted in small sums being handed over to farmers that probably won’t cover the cost of filling the tanks on the farm equipment.

In some ways, politicians are just the worst sort of people to be attending to matters on the farm, but yet they always do get involved. This is exactly why elections matter. People must vote with their best interests at heart, but often they fall for the snake oil salesman of the moment instead.

Now, Wisconsin is seeing its small dairy farmers shut the doors and sell the cows – nearly 1,200 dairy farms have gone out of business over the past two years. A retaliatory 25% tariff on US cheese by Mexico has hit the state hard. In Europe, the Agricultural Minister has said that he will always see farmers as part of the solution, not the problem. I am not sure that the current US federal government sees its dairy farmers in a similar light, unfortunately.

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